With the state struggling to pay for needed transportation
work, legislation in Tennessee would authorize tolling as a method to pay for
road and bridge work in the state.
The proposed "Tennessee Tollway Act" would allow the state
to issue bonds and incur debt to pay for toll projects. Private groups also
would be allowed to build and operate the pay-to-play routes.
Sponsored by Rep. Phillip Pinion, D-Union City, the measure
doesn't specify toll roads or rates. But it allows tolls "as an additional and
alternative method" to pay for highway work.
Pinion told the Memphis
Commercial Appeal the funding mechanism could be the best option to pay for
vital projects such as an additional Mississippi River bridge at Memphis.
Supporters of the toll plan cite a projected 10 percent cut
in federal funding in the coming year. Among the issues causing uncertainty
about available dollars are soaring construction costs, including asphalt, and
ongoing negotiations about federal funding for highway projects.
Opponents say toll roads would amount to an extra tax, when
fuel and other taxes should cover road building.
Pinion's bill - HB1204 - and an identical Senate bill -
SB1152 - are in committee.