News release from Tennessee Department of Transportation:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer today released the three-year transportation program, featuring approximately $1.5 billion in infrastructure investments for 80 individual project phases in 47 counties, as well as 15 statewide programs.
Tennessee is one of only five states that do not borrow money to fund transportation projects, and the program continues TDOT’s “pay as you go” philosophy, carrying no debt for any transportation initiatives.
“This program represents a thoughtful, balanced approach to transportation and focuses on expanding economic development opportunities, improving safety and providing important upgrades to our interstate corridors,” Haslam said. “A quality transportation system is critical to our goal of making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs as well as the continued growth of the state’s economy.”
The three-year, multimodal program funds several improvements to the interstate system, including the addition of truck climbing lanes, interchange projects and the construction of a three-mile stretch of Interstate 69.
Putting a new bridge across the Tennessee River in North Hamilton County will require the state to break its longtime “pay as you go” habit, state Transportation Commissioner John Schroer told Chattanooga area leaders Wednesday.
Further from the Chattanooga TFP:
With a tight squeeze on road money, the state would have to enter “uncharted territory,” selling bonds or partnering with private investors to build the bridge and connector roads and repaying them with toll revenues, he said.
“If tolling is not an option, this bridge probably won’t be built — I won’t say forever, but for a long, long time,” Schroer said during a briefing for the county’s toll committee.
However, if the state does make the leap, a toll of $3 for cars and $4.50 for two-axle trucks would raise enough to build and operate the bridge for 40 years and repay the debt, a consultant told members of the Hamilton County Commission-appointed toll committee.
In an another Civil War history lesson of sorts, the News Sentinel has provided a report on efforts against the Confederacy by Union sympathizers in East Tennessee.
They were the bridge burners of East Tennessee, Union-sympathizing citizens undertaking a daring scheme to cripple the Confederacy. Presbyterian minister William Blount Carter created the plot; Abraham Lincoln approved it. The plan was to burn nine railroad bridges in a 270-mile span from Bristol to Bridgeport, Ala., the same night.
Each band would move quietly and quickly in the chilly dark, overpower any Confederate forces or railroad guards and torch the bridge. Their acts would cut Confederate supply and troop lines. Inspired Unionist citizens would rally against occupying Confederates as a Union army swept in from Kentucky.
Part of the plan worked. Five of the nine bridges burned. Hundreds of Unionists assembled. But Federal soldiers didn’t come. Instead, Confederate authorities arrested any bridge burner they could nab and scores of other people suspected of supporting them.
….Three days after the bridge burnings, Confederates put Knoxville under martial law. It wasn’t only suspected bridge burners who were arrested. Hundreds ended up in area jails; some were sent to prison in Tuscaloosa. Kelly, who has studied the rosters, says people were even jailed for “Unionist talk.”
Almost four decades later Temple would recall the bridge burnings as “most unwise and unfortunate ” attempts that brought “untold calamities and sufferings” on East Tennessee Unionists.
An illegal immigrant worker had a role in the first fatal accident this year on the Henley Bridge reconstruction project, the victim in a second fatal accident may have been here illegally, and a federal investigation is under way to determine if contractor Britton Bridge LLC knowingly hired illegal immigrants, according to state documents.
More from the News Sentinel story:
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development is working with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, but the federal agency “will take the lead investigation in this matter,” state Labor Commissioner Karla Davis said in a June 10 memo.
“They have subpoenaed the work records of Britton Bridge,” she added in the memo to Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer.
Britton Bridge spokesman John Van Mol said the company has a policy of hiring only U.S. citizens or immigrants who have proper work documentation, but may have been duped by quality bogus documents. He said the firm has voluntarily suspended bidding on any new projects until it can enter a more effective employment eligibility verification system.
Transportation officials on Wednesday halted all bridge work being handled across the state by Britton Bridge LLC and its affiliates pending a comprehensive safety review after the contractor suffered a second worker’s death in four months on the Henley Bridge project, reports the News Sentinel.
Police identified Solin Estrada-Jimenez of Chattanooga as the Britton Bridge employee who was struck on the head and killed by a falling piece of concrete at the downtown Knoxville construction site Tuesday afternoon.
Tennessee Department of Transportation’s suspension order against Britton Bridge and its affiliate, Mountain States Contractors LLC, includes the $24.7 million Henley Bridge renovation and eight other bridge projects totaling more than $47 million in contracts statewide, according to TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi.
“We want to conduct a thorough assessment of all safety measures in place on these projects to ensure the welfare of the other employees,” Tennessee Transportation Commissioner John Schroer said in a press statement.
The review, which will look at all of the company’s work currently under state contract, will be conducted by TDOT staff and is likely to take about a week, he said.