Image Credit: Gov Bill Lee / Facebook
The Center Square [By Jon Styf] –
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee posed the Transportation Modernization Act as a way to get rural highways necessary infrastructure work sooner than would have otherwise happened.
The bill, which he signed in April, puts $3.3 billion of funding into the account to cover road infrastructure improvements across the state, with the plan being for that funding to be divided equally among the state’s three grand divisions.
This week, Lee plans to start a campaign where he makes appearances across the state highlighting infrastructure priorities. The first stop comes Thursday in Fentress County.
“As Tennessee continues to experience record growth, the Transportation Modernization Act will ensure our roads keep up with the pace,” Lee said in a press release. “This summer, I look forward to seeing how our new transportation strategy will prepare rural and urban Tennessee for continued economic growth and opportunity, without new taxes or debt, and I thank the legislature for its partnership to ensure our state’s success.”
The state said coming into the year it needs $26 billion in funding toward road congestion, with $14 billion for the state’s four major metro areas and $12 billion for rural interstates.
The state uses gas tax to fund the work and normally the Tennessee Department of Transportation has a $1.2 billion annual budget for the work.
The new law increases electric vehicle registration fees and create a mechanism for Tennessee to allow private companies to build toll lanes in the state. The goal of the program is to have those companies expand larger interstates while the Tennessee road funding goes toward rural highways.
“This will do so without raising taxes, without issuing road debt and without spending a disproportionate amount of funds in our urban areas to the detriment of our rural communities,” Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville, said as the bill passed the Senate.
Massey explained in committee that terms on the toll lanes will be negotiated, giving an example of an 80% to 20% split of road construction costs with a private company paying the larger portion and then getting the first dollars that come in from tolls.
The companies cannot be from four restricted countries – China, Iran, North Korea and Russia. The company will lease the lanes and the state will retain ownership.
The bill, which went into effect immediately April 17, will mean electric vehicles owners will be charged a $200 registration fee starting next year that will rise to $274 and then begin rising with the consumer price index up to 3% annually starting in 2027. Hybrid vehicles will begin at $100 and rise in cost starting in 2027.
About the Author: Jon Styf, The Center Square Staff Reporter – Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonStyf.