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TDOT commissioner talks roads

Former Franklin mayor and current State Transportation Commissioner, John Schroer talked roads with Dave Crouch during the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce July Public Affairs Roundtable.

Orange barrels and narrow lanes denote road projects underway in Williamson County, but there is the headache of early morning and evening travel along sections of I-65, Concord Road and roads that have become alternate routes.

“Safety is our number one consideration,” Schroer said referencing a “horrible” weekend with eight fatalities on Tennessee roads. “I’ve never seen an R or D on a casket. It’s been a bad month. We’ve been working very hard on keeping Tennesseans and people who pass through Tennessee, safe on our roads.”

Those traveling the I-65 section, just south of the Franklin interchange, who are already struggling to keep tempers in check during peak traffic times will see things get worse before better.

Bids will be let in August with completion of the $40 million road project scheduled for June 15, 2016.

“It includes widening to 840 and a new Goose Creek interchange,” Schroer said. “The bridge will go from two lanes to seven lanes and will be raised 10 feet. It’ll be a whole new structure. Think it’s bad now? There’ll be a lot more orange barrels.”
A technology safety system already in place will be expanded from Old Hickory Boulevard to 840 with cameras, speed detectors and the Help Trucks will be added – costing more than $100 million.

For safety issues, the Concord Road ramps are on schedule to be widened to two lanes.

“The place that is most dangerous (on the interstate) is where cars are moving and others aren’t – they’re in the queue (to exit onto the ramp),” Schroer said. “We are really looking at making sure cars that are in the queue are taken care of. That’s a dangerous situation.”

With a $10 billion backlog in road projects, prospects for the building of the northwest quadrant of Mack Hatcher aren’t looking good. The $80 million project doesn’t meet the safety, congestion and economic development criteria, Schroer said.
Federal road funds were recently reduced from $280 million to $180 million per year for projects like the Mack Hatcher extension, and in 2014 that funding may disappear.

With more efficient cars, electric cars that don’t use gas but do use the roads, and people driving less because of gas prices, TDOT, Schroer said, must watch its annual $500 million discretionary budget as the legislature wrestles with finding funding.
TDOT receives 18.3 cents per gallon of gas no matter what the cost of the gas. As a pay as you go department, it takes creative and innovative ways of spending to have Tennessee ranked second behind Texas for quality of roads; first in most efficiently run state in the nation and the state with the lowest debt in the nation. The Lone Star state has 15 times more debt, Schroer said. 

“I am running TDOT like my own business,” Schroer said. “The less you spend, the more you have in your pocket. At TDOT, it’s more left to build more roads. We want to lead the nation in creativity while making sure roads are safe.”

Posted on: 7/31/2013


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