Tennessee DOT Officials Seek $2B More for Highways

Fri December 08, 2006 - Southeast Edition
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) officials said they need to increase their revenue by $2 billion over the next 10 years to improve congestion problems on the state’s highways.

John Houghton, director of TDOT’s long-range transportation plan, said the agency is giving maintenance projects priority over building more highway miles while looking for new ways to raise money.

“What we’re dealing with here is an aging transportation system combined with a growing population and economy,” he said. “With those two things meeting, suddenly you’re faced with a lot of needs to meet.”

Transportation officials are considering several ideas to increase revenue, including establishing toll roads and using carpooling lanes now reserved for multiple riders during rush hour as high-occupancy toll lanes that could be used by single drivers for a fee.

TDOT plans to use $800 million in the next 10 years toward maintenance, encouraging vanpools and park-and-rides and high-priority improvements to rural and urban highways.

Approximately $40 million would be spent over the next decade to improve and expand TDOT’s SmartWay intelligent transportation system across the state.

The system includes cameras, roadside message boards and the state’s 511 phone number that allows callers to get traffic conditions on a particular route and make comments.

Transportation officials said they want to put more money into the system because nearly 60 percent of congestion is caused by one-time events like accidents or disabled vehicles.

These problems can be mitigated through better management of work zones and providing better information to motorists about disruptions, Houghton said.

Other options, such as increasing the gas tax and vehicle registration fees, are likely to be controversial but could generate additional money for highway construction.

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