With the state struggling to pay for transportation work, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen signed a bill into law that authorizes tolling as a method to pay for new road and bridge work in the state.
The “Tennessee Tollway Act” allows the state to issue bonds and incur debt to pay for two pilot toll projects: one bridge and one road. For the bridge project, officials are considering a six-mile stretch of road and a bridge northeast of Nashville.
The bill – SB1152 – won widespread support in the statehouse. The Senate voted 20-10 to approve the bill and House lawmakers followed suit on a 72-21 vote.
The new law allows tolls “as an additional and alternative method” to pay for highway work. It doesn't specify toll routes or rates.
Any further toll projects would first have to face public hearings, environmental studies and legislative approval.
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 said toll roads would amount to an extra tax, when fuel and other taxes should cover road building. Others said Bredesen should first consider repaying about $280 million diverted from the state’s road fund during his first term to other programs.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Tennessee in 2007, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor