Tag Archives: TDOT

TDOT to remove ‘corrupt officials’ billboards

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is moving to take down two bright yellow billboards on Interstate 240 in Memphis that declare TDOT Commissioner John Schroer and another department employee are “corrupt officials,” reports the Commercial Appeal.

The back-to-back signs sit atop a pole, one facing east and the other west, just west of the Perkins exit.

The boards state: “PUBLIC CORRUPTION: T DOT COM. SCHROER AND SHAWN BIBLE ARE CORRUPT OFFICIALS”.

The “T DOT COM.” refers not to some dot-com company, but to the Tennessee Department of Transportation commissioner. He is “Schroer,” full name John Schroer.

“Shawn Bible” works for TDOT, too. She is in charge of the Beautification Office, which, among other tasks, regulates billboards along the rights-of-way.

The agency is about to come crashing down on what courts have ruled to be an illegally erected billboard. Not because of the signs’ corruption allegation, but because the structure stands within the Nonconnah Creek flood way (where billboards are prohibited).

…William H. Thomas Jr., doing business as Thomas Investments, built the billboard, according to TDOT and court documents.

Thomas applied for the billboard permit from TDOT on June 8, 2006, court records show. A month later, TDOT denied the permit, citing the wrong zoning.

He built it anyway, based on a construction permit he got from the Office of Construction Code Enforcement which, in error, thought the site was not in the flood way.

…The case had been tied up in courts for several years. The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled June 27 that the billboard is illegal and must be removed.

TDOT has given notice to Thomas to remove the billboard within 30 days or the agency will dismantle it at his expense. The 30 days have not expired, TDOT spokesman Nichole Lawrence said.

…Asked if there would be a response, legal or otherwise, to the corruption accusations, Lawrence said, “That is not a decision to be made by TDOT, but by the individuals themselves.” Asked if Schroer and Bible would respond to the billboard’s accusation, Lawrence said, “I don’t know that there will be any kind of response.”

TDOT lays out plan for $1.5B in projects over next three years

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam and Transportation Commissioner John Schroer have released the state’s three-year, $1.5 billion transportation program.

The Haslam administration said the plan unveiled Thursday takes a conservative approach because of uncertainty over future federal transit funding. It contains no money to pay for early engineering work on new projects.

The spending plan includes $600 million to maintain, replace or repair roads and bridges around the state. It also envisions interstate projects, including truck climbing lanes, interchanges and capacity expansion on major routes.

The three-year program runs from 2015 to 2017.

About half of the state’s transportation budget comes from the federal government, while most of the rest is generated from the state’s tax on gasoline.

Note: The full list of projects is HERE.

TDOT ready for winter with $19.7M for salt, brine and employee overtime

News release from state Department of Transportation:
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) is stocked and ready to clear roadways of ice and snow this season. Over the last several weeks, salt supplies have been replenished in all 95 counties, and crews have readied snow plows and brine trucks for the winter season.

“We have more than a thousand employees who are trained in snow and ice removal, and they are ready to mobilize when winter weather hits Tennessee,” said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. “Clearing our highways as quickly as possible is essential in our efforts to keep motorists safe and keep traffic moving.”

TDOT’s statewide 2013/2014 winter weather budget is $19.7 million, and includes salt, salt brine, overtime for employees, and equipment maintenance. The department has a total of three salt vendors to refill salt bins in all 95 Tennessee counties.

TDOT currently has more than 235,000 tons of salt and more than 1.8 million gallons of salt brine ready for use. Salt brine is a salt/water mixture used as a pre-treatment for roads prior to a winter storm or to melt snow on roadways when temperatures are hovering around the freezing mark. Salt is applied to roads once snow has started to accumulate.

When snow hits Tennessee, TDOT ice and snow removal teams focus first on clearing interstates and heavily traveled state routes and will specifically target areas vulnerable to freezing, such as hills, curves, ramps, bridges and interchanges. During prolonged weather events, crews may have to clear roadways repeatedly.

TDOT has a number of tools available to keep motorists informed about travel conditions including the TDOT SmartWay website (www.tn.gov/tdot/tdotsmartway) and the 5‑1‑1 motorist information line. You can also receive traffic alerts via TDOT’s multiple Twitter feeds, including statewide traffic tweets @TN511 or any of TDOT’s other Twitter pages. Smartphone users can download the TDOT SmartWay mobile app from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store for Android to access TDOT’s SmartWay cameras, messages displayed on overhead Dynamic Message Signs, and information on construction related lane closures and incidents on interstates and state routes.

For more information about TDOT winter weather preparations, or for a regional breakdown of TDOT winter weather supplies and equipment, visit the TDOT web site at http://www.tdot.state.tn.us/mediaroom/snowbuster.htm.

Haslam ends budget hearings with fretting over TDOT, fed funding

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Transportation Department commissioner said Monday that the state won’t be able to start any new highway projects if it loses federal funding next year.

Gov. Bill Haslam wrapped up his annual budget hearings with the department at the state Capitol.

Commissioner John Schroer told Haslam that money from a measure President Barack Obama signed in 2012 to extend federal highway and transit funding will end on Oct. 1, 2014. If Congress doesn’t extend it, then that would mean a loss of over a billion dollars for Tennessee.

“We don’t know we’re going to lose it,” Schroer said. “They could come and pass a new authorization … and funding could be in place. But there’s a possibility that won’t happen, and so I thought the governor needed to be aware of that.”

Schroer said the state would likely be able to maintain current construction projects, but not take on new ones.

When asked by a reporter after the hearing if the state should consider ways to increase revenue in case of the loss, the commissioner said such discussion is premature, despite sluggish revenue reports for the state.

“I think it’s very important that we know what the big picture is before we decide what we do internally,” he said. “So, until we get that picture, it would really be premature to start talking about what needs to be done in Tennessee.”

The state’s annual transportation budget is about $1.8 billion. The state makes up about 44 percent of that funding, largely from fuel taxes.

The governor has asked all departments to present potential spending cuts because of the state’s sluggish economic performance.

“There are a lot of real difficult decisions, but we knew that going in,” Haslam said after the hearing. “I would feel a whole lot better if revenue will bounce back in the next month or two.”

Note: See also The Tennessean story, excerpted below, which focuses on Schroer urging local government to cut back their funding requests to the state.
Continue reading

TDOT mandates GED for longtime employees

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is now going to require all of its 1,700 maintenance workers to have a high school diploma or GED, including those who have been on the job for years without one, reports WSMV.

TDOT says the reason is simple. It wants to put together a more cost-effective, smarter and more efficient work force on state highways.

But others say this is unnecessarily picking on hard-working people who should not be punished for not finishing their high school education.

“We are very understanding of that, and certainly we are not trying to get rid of anybody. What we’ve put in place is a two-year time frame to where we’re bringing resources in to work with these employees,” said TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges. “In two years, if you do nothing and make no effort, then that could be a result.”

TDOT is paying for GED training and adds many workers are thankful who say they’ve always wanted a GED and feel better about themselves now.

Still, some see this as unnecessary. Several TDOT workers have called Channel 4 News upset that they’ve been able to work, in some cases, for 20 years without a diploma.Tennessee State AFL-CIO President Gary Moore believes this is all unnecessary and plain wrong.

“If they’ve had a good evaluation, then I can see no reason why a GED would make a difference in job performance. So I would question why they are doing it,” he said.

TDOT says the motive is customer service, higher starting salaries and being able to employ promotable people.

“I really believe that in this age we need people with some minimal proficiency in computer skills and being able to understand how things go together, so I think raising the skillset of our entry-level employees is an appropriate thing,” Degges said.

TDOT Releases 3-year List of $1.5B in Construction Projects

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.

Continue reading

TDOT To Continue Digital Billboard Display of Traffic Deaths in 2013 (but not as often)

News release from state Department of Transportation:
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) will continue to display fatality messages on its overhead Dynamic Message Signs, but will do so on a weekly basis rather than daily. TDOT began displaying the fatality numbers on the signs in April 2012 after seeing a sharp increase in fatalities in the first quarter of the year.
“We feel the fatality messages have been extremely successful in increasing awareness about highway deaths across the state this year, and may have helped us stop the dramatic increase we saw early in 2012,” said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. “We have also heard from drivers who say the messages have caused them to make positive changes in their driving behavior.”
While somewhat controversial, the fatality messages have garnered mostly positive responses from Tennessee motorists. A Franklin, TN man emailed to say the signs made an impression on him and his friends, “I have to tell you that none of us ever wore seat belts until we saw those signs. We are all in our 50s and did not grow up wearing seatbelts. Since we saw your signs, we kid each other on how ALL of us always wear them now. You may think people are not paying attention because fatalities are up, but I have talked to so many people that have changed their seatbelt wearing habits since you put those signs up. Thank you.”
TDOT will also continue to run safety messages targeted at specific issues like texting while driving, drowsy driving, and driving under the influence.

Note: Previous post HERE

TDOT Has New Smartway Mobile App

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Department of Transportation has launched a mobile app version of its SmartWay navigation tool.
According to TDOT, the app helps drivers plan their routes with maps that show traffic speeds, crashes, road construction and road conditions.
Users also can set up customized alerts for any problems that develop along a certain route, like their daily commute.
The TDOT SmartWay App is free and available for download at the Apple Store or the Play Store for Android.
TDOT asks motorists to use the SmartWay app responsibly by checking traffic conditions before they begin driving.
More information is available at www.tdot.state.tn.us/tdotsmartway/mobile.htm.

TDOT Grants $100K for Anti-Litter Musical Video

News release from Scenic Tennessee:
Mount Juliet, TN – December 11, 2012 – A Tennessee nonprofit best known for
promoting the state’s scenic qualities now wants to showcase Tennessee’s musical
heritage as well.
Scenic Tennessee has been awarded $100,000 by the Tennessee Department of
Transportation to produce a series of quick-paced videos that apply the power of
Tennessee music to the problem of Tennessee litter. Tentatively called
“Tennessee Speed Cleanups,” the project involves videotaping dozens of litter
pickups across the state, digitally accelerating the footage, then setting it to
original or traditional music performed by amateur as well as professional
musicians. Enhanced with captions, credits and images from 20 years of Scenic
Tennessee photo contests, the completed videos will be shared via traditional
media as well as sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. UT Knoxville’s
student environmental group SPEAK will oversee the social media side of the
project.
It’s all part of a new effort by TDOT’s beautification office to address litter
“beyond routine maintenance.” Scenic Tennessee, an affiliate of Scenic America,
is one of 15 grant recipients notified yesterday of their share in nearly $1
million provided by the state’s soft drink and malt beverage industries.
Grantees are required to provide a 20-percent match; for Scenic Tennessee, this
will come in the form of hundreds of hours of volunteer labor.

Embezzler Takes $500K from TDOT While Buying Land

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Law enforcement officials say the owner of a company hired to purchase land for state road projects must repay more than $500,000 to the Tennessee Department of Transportation after admitting to embezzlement.
Internal Revenue Service Special Agent Jim Runkle said in an affidavit that 53-year-old Michael Wayne Young, president of Brentwood-based Capitol Consultants Inc., told investigators he was “robbing Peter to pay Paul” by taking state money from 2004 to 2011 originally intended for buying property for roads.
Young has been a TDOT right of way division consultant/contractor for 19 years. Investigators determined that money given to Young within the past year was used to buy land that it was not intended for.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Phillips told The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/RQWG7n ) that any criminal prosecution of Young is pending.