Tennessee’s “Transportation Modernization Act” Is Not New (Op-Ed)

Image Credit: TDOTnews / YouTube

By Anne Beckett [Special to The Tennessee Conservative] –

Governor Lee has introduced a “Transportation Plan for Rural and Urban Tennessee”,  and he wants to implement it through HB0321, known as the Transportation Modernization Act.

Gov. Lee says he wants to “partner with the General Assembly.” So, here is his plan, G.A., get on board.

New Creations Construction

The bill is fulfilled through a “private-public partnership”, also known as PPP.

The bill Amends Titles 54 and 55 of the Tennessee Code Annotated. These are our road and highway codes. Tennessee law does not permit PPPs so they will have to be amended. Is that a good idea?

Governor Lee and TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley presented TDOT personnel with a presentation 5 days after including it in his State of the State Address. TDOT is thrilled and has produced an information flyer  to inform the public of this new project.

Of course, to the uninitiated, it all sounds good. Create a public-private partnership and let the private sector pay for a new driving lane that will be your “choice” to drive on. The rates will vary, with highest rates during prime time which could add $20 per day work and travel expenses for those who can afford it.

The bill has 17 co-sponsors from the House, along with 2 sponsors from the Senate who have all jumped on board.  What does the bill say? The HB 0321 bill says shockingly little. So what are we getting into?

There are different types of public-private partnerships, or PPPs. In a “demand risk,” the private partner takes all the risks and after a fixed period of time the infrastructure is returned. However, in an “availability payment partnership” the state insures payment whether the road is used or not. Further, a large part of the problem is PPPs are used to “conceal public borrowing.” It is a way to “sidestep legal debt limits.”

The Transportation Committee has been provided with a 56-page report, “Why Public-Private Partnerships Don’t Work,”  which reveals a “culmination of thirty years’ experience with and assessment of privatization, in countries both rich and poor.” The report concludes, “PPPs are an expensive and inefficient way of financing infrastructure and services.”

So why does Tennessee need private financing? 

Gov. Lee has bragged repeatedly that Tennessee is fiscally sound and has excess funds.  TDOT commissioner Eley echoed that after the 2020-2021 budget was announced and made no noise about the roads.  Granted, $1.2B excess is a far cry from the $54B on the table for road and bridge projects now. 

Why is this happening now? 

Eley continues, “as a result of fiscal prudence and over $180 million in spending reductions from the state agencies, Tennessee is able to return to pre-pandemic priorities and invest in public-private partnerships.”

Which partnerships are those?

Historically, private business contracts for areas such as education, where competitive bidding is awarded to run something like a school cafeteria.

However, PPPs are a different animal. In an article by American Policy, PPPs are considered to be “government-sanctioned monopolies.” This arrangement was introduced during the Clinton administration under a new policy to “reinvent government.”  Today, that “reinvention” has “revealed itself to be the policy known as Sustainable Development, and is the root of massive reorganization of American cities known as ‘Smart Growth.’

And it has come to Tennessee.  Chattanooga has been selected as “one of two U.S. cities in a global initiative to use broadband and data to plan and utilize energy, transportation, health care and communications in more sustainable and equitable ways.”

Our Governor is selecting Tennessee to enter into the “Sustainable Development Goals” of the G20. In the 30-year study it notes, If this is successful, “privatization could become official UN policy.” That is where we are headed.

 “This is a specific agenda with pre-determined outcome.”

“To enforce the Sustainable policies proponents have worked hard to recruit private international corporations to work directly with them to promote the policies through creation of PPPs.”

What international corporations? 

Gov. Lee referenced a Spanish corporation as an example of a PPP. When this issue was raised with Rep. Ed Butler (R-Dist. 41), he said, “the committee is working to ensure that it is an U.S.A. owned corporation.” 

However, Rep. John Ray Clemmons, (D-Nashville), Chairman, House Democratic Caucus, reminds us that the “roadways are an inherent governmental function.”  He also comments, “privatizing government services has been a goal of both Lee and former Gov. Bill Haslam.”

Is this goal, privatizing government services,  in line with our Tennessee Constitution and values?

Our legislators need to think deeply about this, instead of quick fixes for long-term problems. If indeed this all leads to the Great Reset we have a choice. We can walk in, or we can make them drag us. Dig in.


  1.  https://www.tn.gov/governor/news/2023/1/5/gov–lee-unveils-transportation-plan-for-rural-and-urban-tennessee.html
  2. https://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/113/Bill/HB0321.pdf
  3. https://law.justia.com/codes/tennessee/2021/
  4. https://tennesseestar.com/2023/01/10/governor-lee-unveils-26-billion-transportation-modernization-act-of-2023/
  5. https://www.tn.gov/governor/news/2023/2/6/gov-lee-delivers-2023-state-of-the-state-address-tennessee–leading-the-nation.html
  6. https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/tdot/build-with-us/2023%20Transportation%20Modernization%20Act%20one-pager.pdf
  7. https://www.cato.org/blog/good-bad-public-private-partnerships
  8. https://www.world-psi.org/sites/default/files/documents/research/rapport_eng_56pages_a4_lr_0.pdf
  9. https://www.sycamoreinstitutetn.org/2023-tax-revenue-tracker/
  10. https://www.wbry.com/general-assembly-has-approved-tennessees-budget-for-fiscal-year-2021-2022/
  11. https://americanpolicy.org/2017/01/31/publicprivate-partnerships-government-sanctioned-monopolies/
  12. https://www.govtech.com/fs/infrastructure/chattanooga-tenn-picked-for-smart-cities-tech-test.html
  13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G20
  14. https://tennesseestar.com/2023/01/10/governor-lee-unveils-26-billion-transportation-modernization-act-of-2023/

About the Author: Anne Beckett is the founder of Tennessee Action Group of Fentress County, a grassroots group dedicated to promoting the sovereignty of Tennessee and its citizens. 

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