CROSSVILLE (WATE) – Gov. Bill Haslam is tackling the growing demand for Tennessee’s transportation system. He’s on a so-called “Transportation Listening Tour,” meeting with local leaders around the state to compare notes on what’s needed and the ideas to find more funding. Haslam made a stop in Crossville Monday morning.
Brandy Bartlett’s car seems to be her home during the work week.
“I drive every day from Jamestown to Crossville,” she said.
That adds up to about 70 miles a day. Cars are more fuel efficient in Tennessee, which is good news for drivers like Bartlett, but it means something else entirely for the state.
“The state has about 30 to 50 percent less funding per mile that our citizens drive,” said Haslam.
Road projects are costing more and more money, so in turn, there’s currently a backlog of work, safety upgrades and repairs.
“We’ve got to make sure at some point in time that we maintain what we have, and it’s going to require looking at what type of revenue that we get,” said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer.
That is why the governor met with leaders Monday to strategize, because some believe at the end of the day, transportation happens locally. In Cumberland County for example, the taxes you pay in gasoline to fill up your tank funds the county’s highway department.
“The expenditures are going through the roof and your revenue stays the same. So you just keep getting further and further under every year,” said Cumberland County Road Superintendent Scott Blaylock.
To give you a better idea, take the price of asphalt.
“In 2002, what Cumberland County paid for it was approximately $26 and some change. In 2012, it went anywhere from $80 to $85 a ton,” added Blaylock.
Increasing the gas tax is one possible solution.
“Road projects are the key to safety and congestion, but also economic development,” added Commissioner Schroer.
Many are hoping there are options they get a say on.
“I know they need the money to get the roads done, but that’s still costing us out of our pockets,” said Bartlett.
Highway departments are asking for long-term ways to end the uncertainty.
“If you let your roads lay and lay and they just deteriorate, it takes so much more to bring them up to standards,” said Blaylock.
Gov. Haslam and state leaders will continue touring a few more cities, then they will begin drafting possible solutions. Anything presented will be brought in front of the state’s General Assembly.