Frustration with Washington vented at governor’s transportation hearing

Local News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Frustration with Washington over transportation projects was heard loud and clear Tuesday at Governor Bill Lee’s budget hearings.

Much of it involved the uncertainty of federal lawmakers passing new funding laws that help provide money for projects in states like Tennessee.  

“I want to discuss the predicament we are in today,” said Deputy Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Joe Galbato at Governor Bill Lee’s state budget hearings.

For years, transportation officials in states around the country have said Washington keeps kicking the can down the road with what’s called continuing budget resolutions.

Those resolutions dribble out funds instead of a new overall. Much talked about federal transportation bill that both parties used to champion almost daily.

The federal action would leave state officials with much needed “certainty” so they can better plan and pay for transportation projects that depend on the federal dollars.

Instead, Tennessee’s top transportation executives told Governor Lee they have to be cautious in issuing contracts with money that may or may not be there.

It means a shorter construction season with an impact in every corner of the state.

“So that will impact our ability to do work,” said TDOT chief engineer Paul Degges. “And It will impact jobs in the industry.”

Afterwards before reporters,  a plea to Washington came from TDOT Commissioner Clay Bright.

“We have got to have a sustainable long-term plan and we can’t do this with continuing resolutions,” he said without hiding frustration.

The governor added his role in the transportation dilemma starts with Tennessee’s Congressional delegation.

“I can push forward through our elected officials there who I know are pushing forward on funding, but we are at the mercy for a portion of that funding,” said Lee about inaction by Washington.

TDOT execs also said the ten year plan for projects funded the recent state gas tax (IMPROVE Act) are being pushed out now to twenty years for completion.

Commissioner Bright cited funds being brought in by the gas tax and lack of indexing for inflation as some of the reasons.

“Instead of a process of 10-years, we are looking at twenty plus,” added the commissioner.

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