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Gov. Bill Haslam, center, talks with Tennessee State Senator Bo Watson, left, and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger. Tennessee Gov. Bill Halsam signed the IMPROVE Act Bill at the Tennessee Welcome Center in East Ridge, Tenn. on June 4, 2017.
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Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday that the IMPROVE Act's impact on Tennessee taxes and infrastructure marks an historic milestone for Hamilton County and the rest of Tennessee.

Haslam was in Chattanooga Monday morning for the ceremonial signing of the act in an event held at the Welcome Center near the East Ridge exit on I-75. Haslam actually signed the act into law in April.

Hamilton County will get $600 million in transportation project funding under the act, as well as $1 million a year in ongoing annual funding for local roads, Haslam said.

The interchange, just north of the Tennessee-Georgia line in Chattanooga, is part of TDOT's $2.6 billion, three-year transportation improvement plan. The junction sees an estimated 124,000 vehicles passing through daily in an area notorious for its traffic jams.

The long-awaited project — estimated to cost $65 million, according to the IMPROVE Act project list — is part of infrastructure investments for 101 individual projects in 40 Tennessee counties, including several others in Hamilton County and surrounding counties.

Officials in Haslam's office said the IMPROVE Act — Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy — cuts nearly $300 million in taxes next year and more than $500 million in taxes annually at full implementation, including a 20-percent decrease in the sales tax on groceries and a $113 million reduction in business taxes on manufacturers.

Almost 1,000 road and bridge projects will be done "through a conservative, responsible and user-based approach of raising the gas tax by six cents and diesel tax by 10 cents, each over the next three years," state officials said in the statement issued Monday on the governor's signing tour.

The legislation was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, and Reps. Barry Doss, R-Leoma, and Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville.
The state is taking a "design-build" approach to the interchange project to help streamline it. "Design-build" refers to a project method that combines all or some portions of the design and construction phases of a project into a single contract, according to TDOT.

The legislation will mean an additional $70 million annually for counties and $35 million for cities.

Nokian Tyres will build a new tire manufacturing facility in Dayton, investing $360 million in the facility and creating at least 400 new jobs, and passage of the IMPROVE Act played a critical role in attracting Nokian Tyres to Tennessee, officials said.

The legislation also sets a schedule to eliminate the Hall income tax by 2022.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

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