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.
Excerpt from a report on secret code names used by the Department of Economic and Community Development from the Nashville Business Journal:
Spaghetti. Tango. Washington. Pearl. Buckeye. And let’s not forget Project Dark, named after the Bruce Springsteen music video, “Dancing in the Dark,” where Springsteen pulls Courtney Cox onto the stage.
The names — though rather innocuous on the surface — each represent what officials consider a critical piece to the economic development process: keeping the names of companies that might expand or relocate here secret.
Whether it’s 600 new jobs or the expansion of existing business, project code names are created to hide the identity of the company until a final announcement. Sometimes it’s to keep sleuthing reporters off the trail (as was the case when Mars Petcare decided to change their project name to Project Skylar from Project Beta after we printed a story about their plans).
But more often, it’s a measure economic development officials said protects employees from conjecturing about future company plans and ensures that landowners don’t gouge prices when they realize there is a powerhouse knocking on the door.
…”Obviously, it is best to select a code name that has no relationship to the company. Even the most sophisticated/clever project code names can reveal a company identity if there is some type of ‘tie in’ to the company,” said Jeff Hite, director of business recruitment for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce . “For example, several years ago Project Zeta was connected to the company. At the time of the project, Catherine Zeta-Jones was the spokesperson for T-Mobile and this project turned out to be a customer service center for T-Mobile.”…
…”We usually use a first name, a reminder of who the client reminds us of, a location, a fan favorite,” said Carlyle Carol, vice president of economic development for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce . “Yet never anything that would give the project away.”
Example? Dell Computer’s plans were nicknamed Project Farmer. The company first moved to the area in May 1999, opening a 260,000-square-foot plant in Lebanon to produce desktop computers. The code name’s alleged connection, Carol said, was to the lyrics from “The Farmer in the Dell.”
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Tracy says that he wants a study of options for raising new revenue for state highway projects – but not until after the 2012 elections next fall.. Andrea Zelinski has the story (and video) at TNReport.
“I don’t see gas tax at all being in the picture as we speak,” Tracy said. “I see us looking at an overall picture of funding for transportation at the local level, at the county level, at the state level, looking at the overall picture of funding for transportation.”
Sen. Tracy said he plans to assemble a task force to meet “in the latter part of 2012,” which means voters won’t likely get a preview of the discussions prior to the primary elections in August or the general in November.
Tennessee Transportation Commissioner John Schroer told Republican Gov. Bill Haslam during last month’s budget hearings the state needs to begin thinking about how to compensate for the dropping gas tax revenues that are due in part to more fuel-efficient vehicles (and electric vehicles that don’t use gas) on the roads.
…. (Haslam says) at some point the state is going to need to look at the transportation taxes, “or we’re going to be down to where we can’t fund just the basics of our road and bridge program in Tennessee.”
“My suggestion, whether it be this piece or that, let’s take a comprehensive look at the whole way we do that. My sense is we’re still a year or two away from that, from having a comprehensive approach.”