NASHVILLE — Nine Southeast Tennessee road and bridge construction projects are among 113 state projects totaling $850 million that officials have identified as “potential” candidates for President-elect Barack Obama’s proposed federal stimulus package.
The list of bridge and road improvements that can be “ready to go” within 180 days — an expected stimulus requirement — includes three highway bridge replacement projects in Hamilton County.
Among them is a Lee Highway bridge over CSX rail lines in the East Brainerd area. The projected price tag is about $5 million, according to “very rough” estimates cited by Tennessee Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Paul Degges.
The full size and scope of the federal stimulus package remains unclear, Mr. Degges said, but state officials have put together a list of eligible candidates such as the Lee Highway bridge, where issues such as purchase of rights of way and environmental studies have been done or are not an issue.
Just in case, Tennessee also has a list of 133 additional projects totaling another $847.6 million for items such as repaving roads, extending runways at some airports, public transit and infrastructure improvements for short-line railroads. These projects bring Tennessee’s total wish list to 246 projects totaling about $1.69 billion.
Getting even part of the total list “would be very helpful,” Mr. Degges said.
Mr. Obama wants the package to help kick-start a national economy now mired in recession. The American Association of State Transportation Officials estimates that every $1 billion to $1.2 billion invested in transportation infrastructure supports about 35,000 jobs.
State Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, a House Transportation Committee member, said state officials are “all still just sitting on wait to see what the federal government does with the stimulus package.”
“I certainly hope it comes down because it will create jobs in our area,” Rep. Dean said.
Georgia officials, meanwhile, have assembled a wish list similar to Tennessee’s. It totals $3.44 billion for projects ranging from roads to aviation and other transportation priorities.
“We wanted to put everything out there that we had,” said GDOT spokesman David Spear. “Obviously, we would be more than appreciative for any money they could give us.”
The Washington Post earlier this week reported that the overall stimulus package could reach $675 billion to $775 billion, with the money intended to create or preserve at least 3 million jobs over the next two years.
Stimulus funds would go to a variety of areas, including middle-class tax cuts, Medicaid assistance to revenue-strapped state governments and plowing money into public works such as roads and bridges, as well as improvements to school buildings.
Among Tennessee’s projects is the replacement of a Hamilton County Railroad Authority-owned bridge over Bonny Oaks Drive. It is located near the Enterprise South industrial park site where Volkswagen is building a $1 billion auto assembly plant.
The single-track bridge will be expanded to two or three tracks, Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey said. The county-run railroad is tied to Enterprise South-related improvements affecting Volkswagen and its suppliers, he said.
Hamilton County and Chattanooga officials previously have said they plan to spend more than $3 million to upgrade rail lines at or near Enterprise South for VW. The county authority’s rail line connects to both the Norfolk Southern and CSX rail lines, city officials have said.
Mayor Ramsey provided no immediate cost estimates on the railroad bridge replacement project, but he noted that, if some funding is made available through the federal stimulus package, “every bit helps.”
Another Hamilton County project involves the replacement of a Cummings Highway bridge over Lookout Creek near the base of Lookout Mountain. Again, relying on rough estimates, Mr. Degges said the project may cost around $2 million.
The third project is a State Route 60 bridge in north Hamilton County that could cost about $500,000, he said.
One Bradley County project involves reconstruction and widening of a 2.7-mile portion along State Route 60 from near Golf Drive in Waterville to the Cleveland bypass. Mr. Degges said preliminary estimates on that project are from $12 million to $15 million.
Tony Dorsey with the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials said it remains unclear how much money Mr. Obama and Congress will put into transportation.
“We’re hearing anything from $12 billion to $25 billion to upwards of $50 billion,” Mr. Dorsey said.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...