NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee Department of Transportation has released a video laying out what price managed “choice lanes” would look like if Tennessee moves forward with plans to add them to state highways.
Choice lanes are added lanes to state highways that drivers can use for a charge. The goal is to allow drivers to have a more reliable commute when there general purpose lanes are congested.
In a video posted earlier this month, TDOT explained these lanes have been shown to increase transit use in other states.
“Those using transit really win with choice lanes. Transit riders do not have to pay additional fees while experiencing more reliable trip times and a stress free ride,” according to a video posted by TDOT.
According to WeGo Public Transit, there was a 6% increase in ridership during April to June 2023 compared to the previous quarter. However, on-time performance is down, especially along some of the region’s busiest corridors, but considering TDOT said there is already a $26 billion backlog of road projects in the state, some said those should be the priority.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” said Nashville resident Giovanni Quinonez. “We are not California yet; we don’t have the infrastructure for that.”
With Tennessee’s population expected to increase by about 1 million people, according to estimates from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, there is widespread agreement that the state’s infrastructure needs to be revamped.
“For the amount of people we have here…it’s not working so well,” said Nashville native Jaylen Lane.
On choice lanes, Lane said he is open to the idea considering the current system doesn’t seem to be working smoothly.
“I think that would do pretty well for us because it’s only going to get worse for us here on out,” he said.
Texas A&M University traffic engineer and professor Tim Lomax said choice lanes do improve traffic, but have their limits.
“The idea is to give people a way to essentially say, ‘This trip is really important for me. I’m willing to either pay some money…in order to make this trip more reliably and more quickly,'” he said.
Lomax explained these lanes don’t eliminate rush hour traffic, but they can be beneficial for those people in a rush on a certain day and can help reduce the overall time some people spend in traffic during peak hours.
“Instead of being three hours, it may be two and a half hours,” he said.
In the spring, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a transportation bill into law that will allocate more than $3 billion to address state transportation needs, including exploring the possibility of adding choice lanes.
TDOT explained this project would also be funded by public-private partnerships where a private-sector partner would work with the department to design, build, finance, and operate these lanes.
The choice lanes would be additional lanes and not replace existing lanes.