Transportation Coalition of Tennessee launches statewide tour in support of Haslam plan

Transportation Coalition of Tennessee launches statewide tour in support of Haslam plan

May 16th, 2017 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Bridgett Massengill, executive director of Thrive 2055, speaks at a Transportation Coalition of Tennessee news conference on Monday.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

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Advocates of the IMPROVE Act, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam's signature road-funding and tax-cutting legislation, have launched a statewide media tour to tout its benefits.

On Monday, Transportation Coalition of Tennessee representatives discussed Chattanooga-area projects and dollars at the Hamilton County Business Development Center, the first stop of the 95-county tour. They said the boost in transportation funding will help provide much-needed increases to road capacity and safety.

The IMPROVE Act is projected to result in $511.8 million in Tennessee Department of Transportation projects and $41.4 million in new local revenue for Hamilton County over the next 15 years.

Key interstate projects include improving the I-24/I-75 split, a 10-mile stretch of I-24 from I-59 to U.S. 27 and modifying the I-75 interchange at Hamilton Place mall.

Gary Drinnen, founder of marketing and public relations communications firm Targeted Strategy, speaks at a Transportation Coalition of Tennessee news conference on Monday.

Gary Drinnen, founder of marketing and public relations...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Upcoming Hamilton County interstate projects

I-24 from I-59 to US-27

Length: 10.03 miles

Cost: $171,557,785

2018: preliminary engineering

I-75 interchange modification at I-24

Length: 0.4 miles

Cost: $65,000,000

2018: construction

I-75 interchange modification at Hamilton Place Mall

Length: 0.42 miles

Cost: $40,000,000

2018: preliminary engineering

I-24 interchange modification at SR-2 (Broad Street)/SR-58 (Market Street)

Length: 0.87 miles

Cost: $37,000,000

2019: construction

I-75 from north of US-64 in Hamilton County to US-74 in Bradley County

Length: 8.84 miles

Cost: $95,065,854

2018: preliminary engineering

"If our jobs continue growing, what good are they if we can't access them?" asked Bridgett Massengill, executive director of Thrive 2055. "If we continue working to make higher education more financially accessible, what good is it if we can't access [schools]?"

Thrive 55, a public-private initiative, seeks to prepare Hamilton County and 15 other Tri-State counties for accelerated growth in the coming decades.

Gary Drinnen, founder of marketing and public relations communications firm Targeted Strategy, said increased road capacity could reduce fatal accidents.

"Highway infrastructure improvements can do this by separating motor vehicles in time and space, limiting the angles at which vehicles can collide, reducing the likelihood and consequences of collisions with roadside objects and reducing the potential for vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian contract," he said.

The Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy Act raises gas taxes by 6 cents a gallon and diesel taxes by 10 cents a gallon over a three-year period. It also includes a $113 million cut on manufacturers' business taxes and a 20 percent reduction on grocery sales taxes, which amounts to an additional $125 million in cuts.

On top of an expected additional 400,000 people in the area in 40 years, the organization sees increased commercial traffic passing through in the coming decades, Massengill said.

"We know today the highest volume of freight traffic is moving through our region, more than any other metropolitan area in the country," she said. "We understand that with economic growth comes more pressure on infrastructure that's already buckling."

Increased capacity at the Panama Canal is expected to bring more shipping to Savannah, Ga., which will generate more interstate freight traffic between Atlanta and Nashville, with Chattanooga waiting at the crossroads, Massengill said.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@times freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @pleach_tfp.


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