Senate committee declines to lift cap on toll projects
By JOE EDWARDS
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — The Senate sponsor of a proposal to remove limits on how many toll roads or bridges could be built in Tennessee has withdrawn the bill from consideration for the year.
Sen. Tommy Kilby, a Wartburg Democrat, did not explain to the Senate Transportation Committee why he was withdrawing the bill on Wednesday.
A pilot program passed last year calls for one toll road and one toll bridge project.
Last month the House approved the companion measure to lift that cap, with supporters saying it’s needed to jump-start infrastructure projects amid dwindling federal road money.
A week before that, state transportation officials were notified that the federal government is withdrawing $66 million previously promised for road work. The federal government has cut nearly a quarter-billion dollars from Tennessee’s expected road money since 2005.
The new toll bridges proposed by local governments have included:
• A Hamilton County span to cut travel time between Chattanooga and Soddy-Daisy.
• A bridge giving Henderson-ville residents faster access to Interstate 40 and Nashville’s airport.
• A third bridge over the Mississippi River in Shelby County.
• Replacing a ferry between Houston and Benton counties.
Developers proposing a $4 billion hotel, shopping and residential center in the Bells Bend area of Nashville have said that the project is contingent on a new bridge over the Cumberland River and have told legislators that it might be a good candidate for a toll bridge.
The amount of the tolls anywhere has not been decided.
Supporters in the House have said they only want the state to consider proposals approved by local governments that recognize that their projects could take years to move up on the state Transportation Department’s priority list.
While charging for highway access has been a common way to fund road building and maintenance in much of the country, most of the South has resisted the trend.
On the Net:
Read SB3091 on the General Assembly’s Web site at: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us
Published in The Messenger 4.11.08
Tennessee, toll roads