This story was updated Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, at 5:30 p.m. with more information.
NASHVILLE — A plan to build a nearly $200 million new federal courthouse in Chattanooga unanimously passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday and is ready for Senate floor consideration, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander announced.
"This bill, at my request, provides $189.1 million to build a desperately needed new courthouse in the largest and busiest Judicial District in Tennessee," the Tennessee Republican and Appropriations Committee member said in a news release.
Alexander called a new courthouse "the only solution to address the significant operation, space and security deficiencies that exist at the current Federal Courthouse in Chattanooga — the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse — which was constructed 86 years ago."
He added that the Judicial Conference of the United States has designated Chattanooga as a "Courthouse Construction Priority, and I am glad that the need for this new facility has been recognized by the Committee."
The Fiscal Year 2020 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill is consistent, Alexander said, with the spending limits included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 approved by Congress ,and signed by President Trump, in August.
U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey, who works in the federal building downtown, applauded the news.
"Our office has been aware that the new Chattanooga Courthouse has been on the docket for some time now," he said in a statement. "We are encouraged to hear that progress is being made and look forward to seeing the project develop."
The legislation, unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, is now ready to be considered by the full Senate. But if passed there, it would still need to be included by the House in its bill version and passed.
U.S. District Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice Jr. was presiding over a trial Thursday and could not be reached for comment.
But in 2017, Mattice told the Times Free Press that a new courthouse was something the city desperately needed.
The Chattanooga federal courthouse, built in 1933, was first added to a General Services Administration list for replacement in 1999.
Noting in 2017 that the building was built when electricity was the latest technology, Mattice said it's "ill-suited to house judges and support staff to run a modern federal courthouse. Security is not anywhere near the modern level of security required."
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.