NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — No lawmaker is denying it – Tennessee is seeing unprecedented growth.
“If we keep growing in the way we’re growing right now, we’re going to be totally bottlenecked and gridlocked in 10 years,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) said. “Our infrastructure cannot support it.”
With it, comes problems with outdated infrastructure.
“It is ridiculous the amount of traffic Tennesseans have to go through to just get to work, to get to where they want to go, to get to play, to get to their kids’ soccer game,” House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) said.
Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) announced in his annual State of the State address he’s recommending over $3 billion extra to fund TDOT’s road project.
Part of that project includes lanes people can pay a few bucks for and potentially bypass traffic. Republicans contend these roads are not toll roads, they’re ‘choice lanes.’
“‘Choice’ is the key word. It’s not a toll road. You get to choose,” Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said. “You can drive to Nashville through I-40, which comes right to the center of town, or you might be able to take a faster lane.”
But Democrats contend you have to pay to use the lane, so you may as well call it what it is.
“They don’t want to call it a toll road?” Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) said. “It’s a toll road, and you only have a choice if you have expendable income.”
Still, at least the general idea of expanding infrastructure is a bipartisan one.
“I’m excited. The topic itself is exciting,” Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said. “We should’ve focused on this every year that I’ve had the honor of serving in the legislature.”
Though the fact that the bills to get the project done are being filed so late has drawn the ire of Clemmons, the Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
“They like to do it where they just rush it through at the last minute and hope nobody notices the details, which I think they’ve successfully done (before),” he said.
Regardless, as TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley pointed out to us, everyone is affected by traffic.
“If you’re an elderly person that’s trying to get to a doctor’s appointment across town, if you’re a young person that’s trying to get to school or trying to get to college, these are people that are going to be using this system every day to be able to get to where they’re going faster,” Eley said.
It currently takes more than 15 years to finish a road project. Tennessee leadership is aiming to bring that down to five.
Lee’s proposal allocates $750 million dollars for each of the four TDOT regions across our state.
But that plan has some Democrats pushing back, saying it unfairly withholds money from Nashville’s region. Region three – which includes the capital city – has a significantly higher population in comparison to the other three.
“My colleagues usually understand equal, but they don’t get equitable at all,” Johnson said. “Equitable means that per capita it’s going to be an equal amount of things; per size of your city, then it would seem you would get more dollars.”