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Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer speaks with Clarksville Leaders

 

City of Clarksville - Clarksville, TNClarksville, TN – Tennessee Department of Transportation commissioner John Schroer told a group of Clarksville community leaders Tuesday that the state needs to increase highway funding or risk stalling Tennessee’s strong economic growth.

Schroer says the state desperately needs a plan for additional “long-term, sustainable” highway money.

Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan greets Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer at Freedom Point Tuesday morning after his talk on the state’s highway funding challenges.

Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan greets Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer at Freedom Point Tuesday morning after his talk on the state’s highway funding challenges.


“We’re not at the crisis point yet, but that’s where we’re headed,” he said. “We have identified $11 billion in needed projects statewide, but our budget for roads has remained flat for the past 12 years.”

Meanwhile, construction costs continue to increase, and the state’s current road-funding formula – taxes based on fuel consumption — has no chance of keeping up with the needs as vehicles get more fuel efficient.

Schroer and Governor Bill Haslam have been building the case for increasing highway funding for two years, and the commissioner says Haslam is ready to put a plan before lawmakers during the next session of the Tennessee General Assembly.

In a presentation called “The Road Ahead – The Future of Transportation: Continuing the Conversation,” Schroer described how neighboring states have used a mix of fuel tax increases, higher vehicle registration fees, annual fees on electric vehicles, and trucking fees to bolster highway funding.

Schroer said he couldn’t reveal any details yet, but confirmed Haslam’s proposal would be a “package” of these types of measures.

The commissioner noted that Tennessee spends the third least of any state on roads yet has a highway system rated as the second best in the nation. The road network is a key factor in the state’s ability to attract new companies, especially auto-related and distribution-supply chain businesses.

Good roads are also necessary for the state’s booming $18 billion tourism industry, where 91 percent of the state’s visitors arrive by vehicle.

“We’re efficient, and we use a debt-free, pay-as-you-go funding system. Tennesseans can be confident new money would be spent wisely, and it will have an immediate impact,” Schroer said.


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