Tag Archives: TDOT

Special session to avoid $60M fed funding loss?

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee officials are scrambling to avoid losing $60 million in federal road funding because of a new state law that runs afoul of zero-tolerance standards for underage drivers who have been drinking.

Officials with the state Transportation Department in a teleconference Monday urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to hold off on a formal decision to cut the state’s road funding by 8 percent until after reviewing arguments that another state law should keep Tennessee in compliance.

The federal agency said it would rule on the state’s claim by the end of the week, TDOT spokeswoman B.J. Doughty said.

Federal guidelines require a strict 0.02 percent allowable blood alcohol content for drivers under the legal drinking age. The new Tennessee law raises that limit to 0.08 for 18- to 20-year-olds but also metes out the stronger penalties for offenders. Continue reading

TDOT worker killed in Crockett County

News release from Department of Transportation
CROCKETT COUNTY, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Transportation is mourning the loss of a worker fatally injured (Wednesday).

James “Pee Wee” Hopkins, an Operations Technician, was flagging traffic around a maintenance crew when he was struck by an oncoming vehicle. No other TDOT workers were injured. The crash is under investigation. Continue reading

TDOT uses fed money to put 21 more HELP trucks on the road

News release from Tennessee Department of Transportation
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s popular HELP program is growing. TDOT was awarded a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant that will allow the department to add more HELP Operators and trucks, as well as expand the routes of the HELP program in West, Middle, and East Tennessee.

“In the 15 plus years our HELP trucks have been on the road, they have proven to be an invaluable resource for TDOT, other first responders, and the traveling public,” TDOT Commissioner John Schroer said. “Expanding the program will help us maximize the efficiency of our transportation system and better serve the citizens of our state.”
Continue reading

TDOT issues 3-year, $2B road project list

News release from state Department of Transportation
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer today released TDOT’s annual three year transportation program, featuring approximately $2 billion in infrastructure investments for 79 individual project phases in 42 counties, as well as 15 statewide programs.

The three-year program continues the state’s focus on providing a high quality state transportation network that is safe and reliable and supports Tennessee’s economic development efforts. New federal transportation funding through the FAST Act federal legislation includes a roughly two percent increase for FY 2017 over FY 2016’s funding. The FAST Act also provides some one-time flexibility that allows TDOT to tap into an additional $147 million in federal money.

These increases combined with the $100 million repayment to the highway fund in the Haslam administration’s proposed FY 16-17 budget will give the department a somewhat larger building program in the upcoming fiscal year – an estimated $965 million in FY 2017, compared to $660 million in FY 2016. Continue reading

TDOT paying $11.5M for new anti-DUI ad campaign

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is spending $11.5 million — some state money, most federal — on a new anti-DUI campaign to replace one cancelled recently after being roundly criticized as sexist, reports The Tennessean.

The state last week hired Austin-based Tuerff-Davis Enviromedia Inc., which won the $11.5 million contract to oversee the Governor’s Highway Safety Office media campaign. The state will pay $2.5 million with the remainder of the costs covered by the federal government. Earlier this year, state officials emphasized all of the funding for the controversial anti-DUI campaign came from the federal government.

The new campaign will focus not only on programs aimed at stopping impaired driving but other highway safety issues including motorcycle safety and seat belt use, according to contract documents.

…The new contract comes on the heels of the state apologizing, then cancelling its former anti-DUI campaign run by a Knoxville-based marketing firm after the campaign went viral. In mid-July, the state took down an anti-DUI website after coming under intense criticism for the slogans it used, including those that referred to girls looking “hotter” to guys under the influence and being “chatty” or “clingy.” Many, including state lawmakers and Tennessee residents, deemed the campaign sexist.

…Tuerff-Davis Enviromedia beat three Nashville-based companies to earn the bid. The details of the other bid packages were not immediately available.

Proposed work for the new contract began Dec. 9 and runs through December 2020.

State officials did not immediately respond to inquiries about the new marketing firm, including exactly where the state money will come from or why it is now being used to help pay for the contract.

Contract related documents list the rate of pay per hour for several employees as high as $175 per hour (for creative director) and as low as $40 per hour (for intern). The public relations employee would make $140 per hour, or if salaried full time, $291,000 annually. By comparison, Tennessee’s transportation commissioner makes $158,556 each year.

TDOT blows up a bridge

Here’s the email from the Tennessee Department of Transportation sent along to media with a link to the video:

Near Smithville in DeKalb County, spans from the 1948 truss bridge on U.S. 70 over the Caney Fork River and Sligo Road were taken down today. TDOT is nearing completion of a $39 million project to replace the truss bridge with a new welded steel plate girder bridge. The new bridge was open to traffic in early August 2015. Demolition of the old bridge is an important phase in the project. The project is slated for total completion in June 2016, but it is very likely that it will be completed ahead of schedule.

If you keep watching after the first video, there are more afterwards.

TDOT rejects request to block view of N.B Forrest statute

The state of Tennessee has denied the request of Nashville’s Metro Council to plant trees and vegetation to block the view of a controversial Nathan Bedford Forrest statue on Interstate 65, reports The Tennessean.

The Metro Council approved a resolution earlier this month that asks the Tennessee Department of Transportation “take the necessary action” to plant vegetation to block the view of the private owned statue” that stands along the interstate.

But TDOT commissioner John Schroer informed the council on Monday morning that it does not plant vegetation on its property for the sole purpose of blocking items on nearby private land.

Schoer’s response reads:

“TDOT does not plant foliage on its right-of-way with the sole intention of blocking items on private property based on what might be offensive to some and not to others. Therefore, the request of Metro Nashville’s Council to have TDOT plant vegetation on I-65 near the Harding Place Exit is respectfully denied.”

…At issue is a 25-foot fiberglass Forrest statue, designed by the late sculptor and attorney Jack Kershaw, erected on private land in 1998 near Crieve Hall. Kershaw was among a series of attorneys hired by James Earl Ray after being convicted of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

FBI investigating TDOT contracts, raids road company offices

The FBI raided the offices of a Williamson County construction company as part of an ongoing investigation into nine Tennessee Department of Transportation and two Metro Nashville Airport Authority contracts, reports The Tennessean.

The agents seized payroll records, contract files, work orders and computer hard drives from the College Grove offices of G&M Associates. Jones Brothers, one of the largest road contractors in the Southeast, and two of its affiliate companies are implicated in the investigation, according to a search warrant.

Jones Brothers and the two affiliated companies, Mountain States Contractors and Hot Mix Asphalt, were allegedly involved in a scheme to fraudulently land government contracts intended for companies that promise to subcontract a certain percentage of the work to women- or minority-owned small businesses, the search warrant documents state.

The investigation is focused on the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, which is supposed to help jumpstart businesses owned by women and minorities. The government, which has been cracking down on procurement fraud, can recoup up to three times the contract amount and levy fines.

Mt. Juliet-based Jones Brothers, according to the warrant, named a minority-owned firm in its contract, but instead did work the subcontractor G&M Associates was supposed to do, even going as far as to cover the company logo on their trucks with the minority-owned contractor’s logo. According to the search warrant, the FBI has evidence that “the primary contractors obtained various contracts fraudulently, aided and abetted by G&M.” The FBI raid took place in May.

The federal investigation was prompted by a 2012 whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former employee of Jones Brothers, who said he was fired after raising concerns about fraudulent activity. A federal judge has given the government until June 1 to decide whether to intervene in the whistleblower suit and bring charges against Jones Brothers, its affiliated companies and G&M Associates.

A spokesman for Jones Brothers said the company has cooperated with the federal inquiry by providing hundreds of pages of documents, which the company says show there was no wrongdoing. G&M Associates referred questions to its attorney, who also denied the company had done anything wrong.

TDOT has a pothole patching plan

News release from Tennessee Department of Transportation:
NASHVILLE – A series of brutal winter storms followed by heavy rainfall amounts have created an abundance of potholes along Tennessee’s interstates and state highways. With warmer temperatures in the forecast over the coming days, TDOT is launching a massive effort using all available manpower to repair the damaged areas as quickly as possible.

Multiple 5-6 man crews in each of TDOT’s four regions will be patching potholes over the coming days and weeks. Cold mix asphalt is currently being used for repairs. As weather allows, these crews will be making every attempt to use hot mix asphalt which results in a more permanent repair. Full scale paving will be necessary in many locations. Some crews will be assigned to interstates while others will focus on state routes.

Please note – inclement weather, emergency repairs or incidents may disrupt daily schedules. TDOT does not count potholes, keep a tally of how many potholes have been repaired or the cost of repairs per pothole. These repairs are part of normal highway maintenance operations.

For the next few weeks, daily pothole patching schedules for each region will be posted at www.tdot.state.tn.us/maintenance/potholes.htm.

Motorists should be prepared for short term traffic delays during these repair operations. While every effort will be made to perform repairs during off-peak travel times (9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. weekdays), some lane closures may extend into the late afternoon, evening, and weekends. We ask drivers to be patient and to watch out for TDOT crews on interstates and state highways.

Motorists can alert TDOT to potholes via email at TDOT.Comments@tn.gov or by phone at 1-877-SmartWay.

New bridge spanning TN River opens in Marion County

JASPER, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Department of Transportation has opened a new bridge over the Tennessee River at U.S. Highway 41, more than a year later than expected.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports (http://bit.ly/13W8uOV) the $21.5 million span replaces one built in 1929 and closed in 2012.

The new bridge was originally supposed to be complete in August 2013, but problems with rock beneath the river near the piers added more than a year of additional work. The problem also forced the closure of the existing bridge, which planners originally wanted to keep open until the new bridge was complete.

TDOT Commissioner John Schroer was at the opening ceremonies on Friday. He said Highway 41 is an important route for the region that is often used as an alternate to Interstate 24.

Linda Castle owns the Anchor Inn Bait & Tackle store at one end of the bridge. When the old bridge closed, it cut off her store in the Haletown community from the Marion County Park campground on the other side of the river.

“I am absolutely excited,” Castle said Friday. “I hope (customers) remember us and come back.”

Castle said she plans to advertise the renewed link across the river and her new lunch counter so campers and anglers will know there is a place near the water to eat and buy supplies.

“I’m still here, people, I’m still here,” she said. “I survived the storm.”