TN’s DOT Unveils New Priorities for Department Funds

Wed September 15, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

NASHVILLE (AP) The state Transportation Department (TDOT) plans to solicit public input on its new long-range plan, which includes a new way of ranking projects and the development of a three-year construction project list.

TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely updated state lawmakers Sept. 1 on the plan’s progress. It eventually will include funding for a wider variety of projects than simply roads, such as bus and rail service, to help ease construction in cities and boost economic development in rural areas.

“I think it’s a great concept,” said state Sen. Micheal Williams, R-Maynardville and chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “You are allowing the local people to have input. This is a new concept for TDOT. What’s changing is the way we are doing business.”

Along with the three-year construction list, the department also plans a 25-year “vision for transportation in Tennessee,” and a 10-year transportation plan that is consistent with that vision. Officials hope the change will eliminate some of the politics from the selection system and better manage continuing growth.

Part of the proposal also includes an assessment of whether the state has enough money to fund particular projects.

“Careful examination of the outlook for existing funding sources, as well as the investigation of alternative and possibly untapped revenue sources represent important steps in supporting the maintenance and improvement of the state’s transportation assets,” according to the plan.

“I think we have always needed a systematic approach,” said state Rep. Michael McDonald, D-Portland.

Last December, TDOT announced its plan to pay a team of consultants $4.3 million over two years to help it expand two decades of plans beyond roads.

Since then, PBS&J transportation and engineering consultants has been helping the state with its 2025 multimodal plan — “2025” for the year its expected to be complete, and “multimodal” for its emphasis on different forms of transportation, such as roads, rail, waterways, public transit and aviation.

TDOT has been working to revamp its image since Gov. Phil Bredesen took office last January. Commissioner Nicely has said he was hired to “change the culture” at TDOT and recognizes that part of that culture has been to build more or wider roads to solve every problem.