The following is an op/ed column from the office of Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts, offered for publication, on the topic of state and local transportation.
Clarksville, TN – In the four-plus years I have served as your city mayor, I have not publicly weighed in on state legislative activities or proposals. Much of the legislation, while it generally applies to the citizens of this state, does not help or hinder your city government.
However, the Transportation Modernization Act, proposed by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, provides an excellent opportunity for the City of Clarksville and our citizens to benefit directly.
There are many reasons to support the legislation as it moves through the Tennessee General Assembly. It will greatly increase funding for state aid for highways in local counties and cities. This aid helps all of us, but especially those communities that are rapidly growing – with infrastructure straining to keep up.
There are other parts of the bill that will help Clarksville as we implement the priority projects in our Transportation 2020+ plan.
The TMA will allow local governments to pursue Design-Build contracts for roadway and transit projects.
Design-Build contracts work by providing an owner with just one contract to design and build a project. Rather than hiring a separate architect and contractor, a Design-Build firm provides both professionals who work together on the project from start to finish.
This method, alone, should help move state road projects forward more quickly. But this is stated with an asterisk, for it is hardly ever true that these projects can move with speed in the sense that most of us wish to define it.
There are parts of the bill that are fluid as of this writing, including “choice lanes” and the electric vehicle registration fee, but overall it is a good start in helping Clarksville and other communities in our state address our number one challenge – growth.
We have a great and comprehensive Transportation 2020+ plan that encompasses needs in all areas of our community. But our local governments can hardly act alone in bringing it all to fruition. We need the state as an active partner, and this legislation is a great indicator.
The Middle Tennessee Mayors Caucus passed a resolution in support of the concept of the TMA, knowing that there are details that will have to be worked out post-passage.
Not since the IMPROVE Act passed during my last term in the General Assembly has a proposal been presented that gives local governments more funding, more flexibility, and more opportunities to help our citizens get to work, move through the community more easily, and ease the burden on our road and highway system.
I am happy to lend my support to this Act, and encourage everyone to keep track of the progress of the legislation.