The proposal for a new toll bridge across the Tennessee River in north Hamilton County is dead, the Tennessee Department of Transportation says.
The reason: Slower than expected growth and people's unwillingness to pay a high-enough toll, said Jennifer Flynn, spokeswoman for TDOT.
Flynn said the decision was announced Wednesday at a meeting between TDOT and the Tennessee River Bridge Committee.
Here's the background on the story:
The Tennessee Tollway Act of 2007 authorized TDOT to explore the use of tolling as a possible alternative financing mechanism for a transportation project. The legislation directed TDOT to study candidate tolling projects and to recommend to the General Assembly up to two pilot toll projects; one highway project and one bridge project. Eight potential candidate projects were identified, including a bridge project north of Chattanooga in Hamilton County.
A committee of state and local officials was formed to explore the feasibility of constructing a new Tennessee River bridge to connect the communities of Soddy-Daisy and Harrison. TDOT was directed to assist in this evaluation process and identification of alternatives.
Upon completion of the final toll feasibility studies for the Tennessee River Bridge Project, TDOT officials presented a status report to the Tennessee River Bridge Committee members on July 20, 2016.
While the original studies performed several years ago indicated that a toll bridge could be successful at this location, more current population forecasting and resident polling affected the project's financial feasibility. Updated forecasts show the annual growth for population in the area is expected to be less than previous estimates which had a negative impact on the total toll revenue.
Additionally, a toll survey of area residents and truckers was performed in 2015 to determine the desire to pay for the new bridge crossing. This study concluded that most people polled agree that a new bridge over the Tennessee River is needed and that they support tolling as a way to fund projects in Tennessee. However, their willingness to pay a large enough toll to make the project economically feasible fell far short.
Therefore, TDOT will discontinue any further work on this particular project.