Highway Bill Includes $100M for I-69 in Tennessee

Wed August 17, 2005 - Southeast Edition

WASHINGTON (AP) An extra $100 million in federal funding for the portion of Interstate 69 planned for West Tennessee is included in the highway bill signed into law by President Bush Aug. 10, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said.

The new interstate, nicknamed the “NAFTA Superhighway,” would stretch from Canada to the U.S.-Mexican border when completed.

Tennessee’s section of the interstate would cross the state from near Memphis, running parallel to the Mississippi River up to the Kentucky border.

The $100 million is earmarked in addition to a total $50 million for I-69 planning and construction costs according to documents published by Congressional Quarterly. That would include $11.3 million to construct I-69 in Obion, Dyer, Lauderdale and Tipton counties.

The extra $100 million would be used mostly for costs associated with the section running from Dyersburg to South Fulton on the Kentucky border, Frist spokesman Nick Smith said.

“New roadways generate jobs and infuse new life into Tennessee’s economy,” Frist, R-TN, said in a statement. “I’m tremendously proud of this achievement and eager to see how this funding will benefit all Tennesseans by drawing new businesses, jobs and investment to the region.”

Jimmy Dickerson, a district engineer of the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), said his state will now have the funds to begin work on sections of I-69 that had been on hold.

Tunica County has already taken advantage of an MDOT program that allows local governments to issue bonds for road improvements that then are leased to the state.

Under the program, the state commits to repay the debt from future state and federal highway revenue. MDOT maintains the road, and when the bonds are paid off in 20 years, the state buys the road for $1.

Tunica County’s recent $45 million bond issue will pay to construct a portion of I-69 from Tunica’s casinos to Interstate 55 north of Hernando.

Marshall County will finance its portion of I-69 with industrial development bonds to extend Interstate 269 from the DeSoto County into Tennessee, a project estimated to cost $135 million. The road would swing east and north from where I-69 merges with I-55 north of Hernando.

U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker, R-MS, said Mississippi also will get a share of $50 million to spread among the seven states in the region.

Two Years in the Making

The six-year surface transportation bill, the product of two years of negotiations between Congress and the White House, would generate new federal money for every state working to expand and repair their roads, bridges and rail systems.

The I-69 project has stirred controversy along parts of its route. In June, protesters filled a Bloomington, IN, AMVETS post to protest the extension of I-69 from Indianapolis to Evansville.

Overall, Tennessee is slated to receive $4.7 billion through fiscal 2009. That would include approximately $4 billion for highways and $217 million for transit, such as buses, according to Frist’s spokesman. In addition, $100 million would be authorized for the National Corridors Infrastructure Improvement Program as well as $20 million for a new Joint Institute for Advanced Material on the campus of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, which is to be operated by UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Another $17 million would be authorized for a connector road from the Interstate 75 interchange across Enterprise South Industrial Park to Highway 58 in Hamilton County.

The bill also would allocate $12 million for Tennessee statewide bus replacement and implementing Intelligent Transportation Systems, a technology project to improve highway safety and reduce congestion. Also included in funding would be $18 million for construction on the Foothills Parkway and an $11-million Central Station Transit Center in Knoxville.