NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The governor has signed his infrastructure bill, dubbed the Transportation Modernization Act, into law, his office announced Monday morning. The legislation will allow for public-private partnerships on what the governor calls “choice lanes” and give each of the four TDOT regions $750 million for road projects.
State officials heralded the move as “historic legislation that will create a new strategy and invest $3.3 billion to accommodate Tennessee’s record growth, address traffic congestion and meet transportation needs across rural and urban communities.”
The bill received bipartisan support and was backed by multiple organizations, according to the governor’s office.
“As families and businesses move to Tennessee in record numbers, we need a transportation plan to keep up with the pace,” Gov. Bill Lee said. “Our strategy will meet our transportation needs across rural and urban communities, without new taxes or debt. I commend the General Assembly for its partnership to prepare Tennessee for continued growth and economic opportunity.”
State officials say the plan will give the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) much-needed resources to solve the state’s current and future mobility challenges, including seeking the use of public-private partnerships to preserve state funds for rural infrastructure priorities, exploring the “Choice Lanes” to decrease congestion and increase economic impact statewide, and expanding the alternative delivery model to save taxpayer dollars and deliver road projects more efficiently.
“Tennessee is facing a critical juncture when it comes to mobility, and our new transportation strategy will prepare TDOT to build and maintain roads across rural and urban communities,” TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley said. “I appreciate the work of the legislature and key partners to ensure prosperity throughout Tennessee.”
Despite receiving bipartisan support, opponents say the measure allows private companies to build toll lanes across the state.
Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D—Nashville) said the governor and his colleagues across the aisle had “handed over state roadways to private companies who’ll profit by building toll lanes and charging you whatever the hell they want.”
“Thanks to Lee & GOP you’ll have to pay to dodge potholes and sit in traffic,” he said on Twitter.
Clemmons has been a vocal critic of the plan, telling News Channel 11’s sister station, New 2, last month he felt the deal put corporate interests over Tennesseans’.
“This law allows them to build toll lanes in rural Tennessee and urban Tennessee and suburban Tennessee. So, no one is going to escape the wrath of these private entities,” he said then. “Once they decide they want to build a toll lane, they can set the rates and decide to charge people what they want on a highway or an interstate.”
Sen. Becky Massey (R—Knoxville), who chairs the Senate Transportation & Safety Committee, disagreed, saying the Act was a good deal for the Volunteer State and would “benefit every county in Tennessee.”
In a release sent Monday morning Massey further lauded the legislation.
“This new law comes at a critical juncture for transportation and infrastructure in Tennessee,” she said. “The unprecedented growth in our state over recent decades is the direct result of our sound economic policies, high quality of life, and ranking as one of the lowest taxes states in the country. While this yields economic opportunity, it also presents challenges in our ability to move people, goods, and services across our state. The Transportation Modernization act addresses the state’s growing infrastructure needs in a fiscally conservative way to improve the lives of all Tennesseans and visitors who travel our roads and ensure Tennessee’s future is prosperous.”
“I am tremendously grateful to Governor Lee and my colleagues in the Senate and House for confronting our infrastructure challenges head-on,” said Lt. Gov. Randy McNally. “This legislation will have a positive effect on our congestion issues without abandoning our pay-as-you-go funding system or increasing the tax burden on our citizens. How quickly and efficiently people and goods can move across the state is directly related to our economic success. Improved transportation and infrastructure mean more jobs and that’s a good thing for Tennessee.”
“The Transportation Modernization Act will play an important part in beginning to ease congestion on our roadways,” said House Speaker Cameron Sexton. “I appreciate Governor Lee, Lieutenant Governor McNally, the House and Senate for their partnership as we all continue working to address our immediate, emerging and long-term transportation and infrastructure needs.”
“This is a plan Tennesseans can be proud of. It is an innovative and fiscally conservative approach to modernize our transportation infrastructure without raising taxes,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson. “I appreciate Governor Lee and Commissioner Eley for their work to put together a solid plan to invest in the future of Tennessee, and I am proud to have been a part of it. I am also grateful to Chairlady Becky Massey for her diligent work to get this proposal across the finish line in the Senate.”
“This investment addresses infrastructure challenges without raising taxes, but more importantly, it will provide safer, shorter commutes to get Tennesseans where they need to go in much less time,” said House Majority Leader William Lamberth. “This is a key step to ensuring Tennesseans’ tremendous economic growth continues and that we are well-prepared for the future.”
“As Tennessee continues to experience unprecedented growth, investing in our transportation infrastructure is essential to ensuring residents and our economy keep moving forward,” said House Transportation Committee Chair Dan Howell. “The Transportation Modernization Act will provide historic funding to address congestion in both rural and urban areas of our state. It will also provide innovative solutions to these challenges without the need to raise taxes. I was honored to guide passage of this important piece of legislation in the House, and I appreciate Governor Lee, TDOT and my colleagues in the General Assembly for their support of this generational shift in how we address infrastructure in our state.”