Tennessee Plan For Toll Lanes, $3.3B In Road Work Coming In December

Image Credit: Facebook / myTDOT

The Center Square [By Jon Styf] –

Tennessee’s Department of Transportation met with Gov. Bill Lee’s budget team last week but its larger long-term plan is on schedule to be released in December, Commissioner Butch Eley said.

The December plan announcement for the state’s Transportation Modernization Act implementation will include a proposal to spend $3.3 billion in state funds for road work given to the department last year along with the proposal to implement toll lanes into the highway plan.


The toll lane plan will allow the department to negotiate deals for private companies to add lanes to Tennessee highways and make those toll lanes, with the private company collecting tolls to recoup their portion of negotiated project costs.

Eley said the budget meeting was a huge change from a year before, when his department talked about how it was at a critical funding juncture.

“We were facing unprecedented congestion, we were facing a revenue stream or funding stream that is unsustainable and, frankly, it was taking us way too long to get projects completed,” Eley said.

The one-time state funding increase skewed the department’s budget from $6.1 billion in overall funding in fiscal year 2024 to a proposed $2.8 billion in fiscal 2025.

That includes a proposed $31.3 million in federal funding increase and a $3.3 billion drop in state funding along with $1.5 million less from local taxes.

Department leadership said that it also starts projects believing there is federal funding potential so that the project is eligible if funding becomes available.

“Should federal money become available, either in the form of a formula dollars or a grant, we’re ready to be able to put that on a project,” said TDOT Chief Engineer Will Reid. “We want to maximize what we get from the feds.”

Reid added that, while overall federal funding hasn’t significantly increased, the department is seeing double-digit increases in road-building materials, from guardrail components to asphalt, and large increases in labor costs as fewer individuals go into those trades for a career.


TDOT collected $1.1 billion in user fees including gas tax and vehicle registration fees in financial 2022 that dropped 8% to $1.0 billion in financial 2023 with a one-year suspension of passenger vehicle registration fees. That bill carrying that moratorium had estimated a $121.6 million total impact.

Eley said that the department would move as quickly as possible to start the toll lane program, hoping for a commercial close to the first deals by November 2026.

“We are going to be as aggressive as we can be and move as quickly as we can,” Eley said.

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.

5 thoughts on “Tennessee Plan For Toll Lanes, $3.3B In Road Work Coming In December

  • November 14, 2023 at 6:42 pm

    Seems like a waste, but politicians need to appear working so there’s that.

  • November 15, 2023 at 12:57 pm

    I left California for things like this. Once the government politicians start making you pay to drive on a road or cross a bridge, They never stop. They keep finding new things to tax you on. It will never stop unless you get rid of the politicians. Term limits and fix the broken election system.

  • November 15, 2023 at 2:10 pm

    Again , we need the ability to throw Lee the RINO out of office . It’s true what was said in the last post . Once the Government starts something there will be no end to it . They only take more and more money to waste and it goes on and on . Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely . They are at it again !!!

  • November 15, 2023 at 2:56 pm

    Has anyone looked at other states where private companies run toll roads? I know of two, I-90 in Indiana. Anyone drive this? I have, and it sucks! That highway went to shit after it sold. This is the reason Ohio did not go this route. Then there are the toll roads around Chicago. In better shape, but the amount of toll roads keeps increasing as well as the cost. If charging tolls is the route the state needs to go, just set up one spot tolls at the borders, and toss the money into the state DOT budget. It would not need to be much, but hit every truck for a few dollars, because they do most of the damage to the roadways. The private route is not the way to go.

  • November 16, 2023 at 1:09 am

    These roads have terrible histories internationally. This bill was presented by Gov Lee and sailed through the legislature. A politician’s dream, free money. In the short run. As usual, they push the real problems uphill for the next generation. They were all given an excellent study by a non partisan organization that looked at this internationally. And none bothered to consider, I suspect. But we GAVE IT TO THEM. This is part of the Agenda 2030, private ownership of roads, socialistic, and as noted above a short term solution to a long term issue.


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