With future state road funding
shortfalls projected in the billions, Tennessee transportation officials are
looking for alternate ways to pay for major construction and maintenance
Officials at the Tennessee
Department of Transportation are considering several options to pay for needed
roadwork, including higher fuel taxes, toll roads, increased vehicle
registration fees and bonds.
"Nothing is off the table," TDOT
spokeswoman Julie Oaks told the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Gov. Phil Bredesen said he
wouldn't rule out increasing the fuel tax rate to get matching federal funds.
The tax rate for diesel is 18.4 cents per gallon while the rate for gasoline is
"If the money is available from
the federal government, it is very much worth our while to try and draw that
money down," Bredesen told the Times Free Press. "We still have
significant road infrastructure needs in our state."
According to the department's
long-range transportation plan, Tennessee will face funding deficits as early
as 2008. An accumulated shortfall of $2 billion is expected by 2015. By 2030,
the funding gap is projected to reach $16 billion.
Experts say higher prices for oil,
as well as steel, concrete and cement, are contributing to the struggle to pay
for transportation projects.
Another factor in the state's
fight to fund road and bridge work is the competition for labor and materials
for construction projects around the nation, specifically in the
hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast. The building boom in China also is playing a part
in higher costs.
States also are facing the
uncertainty of federal funding.
Despite all the problems, Oaks
said the state has not been forced to put off any projects.