Tennessee lawmakers rule out fuel tax boost to pay for road work

| 10/4/2007

As is the case in many states across the country, transportation officials in Tennessee are looking for solutions to help pay for the state’s backlog of road work.

Many options for how to eat into the transportation funding gap have drawn consideration in Tennessee in recent months. One option that isn’t expected to get much attention from lawmakers is raising fuel taxes rates.

House Transportation Committee chair Phillip Pinion, D-Union City, said increasing the state’s fuel tax rates is not on the table for consideration.

An interim transportation panel made up of legislators from the state’s House and Senate met recently and discussed ways to construct and repair Tennessee roadways. Officials from the state Transportation Department said they are in a bind because the federal government has withheld more than $170 million in road funds the past two years, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

Tennessee DOT officials told lawmakers the best way to fill the void from lost funds could be through toll roads and bridges. Another option is to lease roads to private groups.

The tolling option falls in line with a bill signed into law this summer by Gov. Phil Bredesen. It authorizes TDOT to study putting tolls on one bridge and one road.

An effort to allow the state to enter into public-private partnerships could come up for consideration once the regular session begins in January 2008.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Tennessee in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor