New law aims to help with TN traffic congestion
Published 11:40 am Friday, April 28, 2023
From Staff Reports
Legislation has been signed to revamp the roads in fast-growing Tennessee and spend more money on them.
The Transportation Modernization Act invests $3.3 billion to address traffic congestion in urban areas, and make upgrades in rural and suburban communities.
Mandy Spears Pellegrin, deputy director of the Sycamore Institute, said the measure will allow the state to either make changes itself or work with private companies to build so-called “paid choice” lanes.
She noted close to a dozen states already have separate lanes people pay to use.
“In Tennessee, what they’re hoping is that this could address urban congestion problems, because ‘paid choice’ lines don’t make sense to go everywhere; they only make sense where there’s a whole lot of traffic,” Spears Pellegrin explained. “That frees up our existing gas-tax dollars to address congestion issues and other needed road repairs.”
Spears Pellegrin pointed out “paid choice” lane rates would vary based on time of day, how many cars are in the lane already, and distance traveled in the lane. The bill received bipartisan legislative support and was backed by dozens of organizations across the state, according to the governor’s website.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation said paid-choice lanes are not toll roads, so drivers do not have to use them if they do not want to pay the fee. Spears Pellegrin added the state will need another $42 billion for transportation projects in the next few years. The legislation is a one-time investment of $3 billion for the state, and $300 million to local governments for transportation projects.
She noted the bill includes other components as well, although drivers of electric vehicles might not be too pleased.
“One more mechanism is they increase the state’s existing fee on electric vehicles, and they add a new fee on hybrid vehicles,” Spears Pellegrin pointed out. “The hope there is that begins to backfill some of those gas-tax losses.”
She added the bill was necessary because Tennessee is falling behind on projects related to roads and bridges, and it does not include expanding public transit into rural or suburban areas.