TDOT shelves 13 road projects, Haslam calls for conversation

Facing cuts of more than $850 million for Tennessee highway and infrastructure improvements, state and local leaders are bracing for potentially catastrophic economic effects that could put at least 1,000 jobs at risk and slow the state’s economy, reports The Tennessean.

Unless Congress intervenes with money to refresh the soon-to-be depleted Highway Trust Fund, federal transportation leaders will shut off funding to state agencies by Aug. 1, triggering cutbacks across the nation.

While the House on Tuesday voted in favor of a short-term measure that would contribute about $11 billion to the Highway Trust Fund, Senate leaders have yet to vote for the funding measure.

Ahead of potential cutbacks, Tennessee transportation officials have shelved the start of 13 road projects totaling more than $200 million from fiscal year 2014 until 2015.

Those 13 projects would be just the start of cutbacks if TDOT’s budget drops from $1.8 billion to about $900 million because its federal funding is cut.

At a ribbon-cutting event Wednesday to mark the opening of the newly widened Mack Hatcher Parkway in Franklin, Gov. Bill Haslam said changes in how the trust fund gets money from gasoline taxes must be made.

“There’s a conversation that needs to be had on the national level as well as the state level about how we’re going to fund roads going forward,” Haslam said. “I think anybody who thinks we can keep doing what we’re doing now and get the same quality that we have now is kidding themselves.”

…To potentially solve the problem, Sen. Bob Corker announced a plan to increase the gasoline tax by 12 cents. Haslam says Corker’s plan is a great “starting place” for possible change.