Could Lee's transportation plan work to address road needs in urban, rural areas?

Road traffic
Posted at 6:12 PM, Jan 06, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Middle Tennessee's population continues to grow, which means more cars on the roads.

Fortunately, the Tennessee Department of Transportation is working on a plan to relieve some of that congestion.

Gov. Bill Lee and TDOT are working together to invest more into roads. Tennessee’s growth is far outpacing roadway capacity investments. This is becoming more prominent throughout Tennessee, not just in urban areas. Lee and TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley said it's important to also focus on improving rural roads. They're introducing the Transportation Modernization Act of 2023.

"We need to relieve congestion. We need to relieve traffic. We need to invest heavily in our urban centers and the highways that surround and run through and feed our big cities," Lee said.

To do this the state is looking at public-private partnerships to allow private companies to invest in new urban roadway infrastructure.

Around $26 billion is needed to address both urban and rural congestion in the state.

This includes nearly $14 billion in the four major urban areas — like Nashville.

And over $12 billion on Tennessee’s rural interstates.

"About midnight or so, I can get from Murfreesboro to Nashville in 30 minutes, but during the day in traffic, it can be anywhere from an hour or two if there’s an accident," said Bradley Dixon.

I think if you ask any driver living in Middle Tennessee, they will have similar stories about the traffic.

"It is crazy. I work in Hermitage as a lawyer so I live over in this area. In the morning time, it’s not as bad but I see the traffic going the other way and it’s terrible," said Taint Perry Jr.

Tennessee has seen population increases of nearly 9% in the past decade.

Because of this, Lee is asking the legislature to consider allowing the state to reserve funds for more rural infrastructure priorities.

An example of Lee's idea is "choice lanes," which are additional, optional lanes funded in partnership with the private sector on urban Tennessee interstates to decrease congestion and increase economic impact across the state.

The plan doesn't detail where these "choice lanes" will be setup, but they will be added to existing roads.

TDOT wants to stress these are not toll roads, which require all drivers using the road to pay a fee to get from point A to point B. "Choice lanes" allow drivers to choose whether to use the new lanes or not.

Democratic Caucus Chairman John Ray Clemmons says the plan points out all the obvious problems but is short on workable solutions.

“It is about time Gov. Lee finally showed up to work and started talking about an issue that actually matters to Tennessee families," Clemmons said. "Our state’s archaic infrastructure system is detrimentally impacting every family’s quality of life on a daily basis and preventing our state from realizing its full economic potential. Unfortunately, while Lee and Transportation Commissioner Eley have done a decent job stating the obvious problems and challenges, it appears they are still unwilling or unable to propose viable, sustainable solutions for the long-term needs of our state."

The governor will bring his plan before the legislature during the upcoming 113th General Assembly, which begins on Tuesday at noon.

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