ROADS/BRIDGES: TDOT commissioner admits bleak future for state highway funding

Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer says road funding is "going to get worse as we go forward."

June 04, 2015

According to Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer, the state is entering into a infrastructure funding crisis.

“We’re quickly moving into a (highway) maintenance only situation,” Schroer said. “We’re not there yet, but we’re moving in that direction ... It’s not a crisis today, but it’s going to get worse as we go forward. Our roads are getting older and we have more capacity, which means more and more dollars are going to do maintenance and less dollars in new capacity projects.”
Tennessee’s 21.4-cents-per-gal fuel tax hasn’t increased since 1989 and with more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road, the tax can’t keep up the rising demand for more funding.

That tax yields $657.8 million per year, and each penny is worth about $30.7 million per year, according to TDOT. Tennessee’s state and local transportation projects are funded primarily by state and federal fuel tax revenues and follow a “pay-as-you-go” financing philosophy.

The good news is that unlike many other states, Tennessee has no road debt.
However, Tennessee is largely dependent on the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which collects an 18-cent gas tax to pay for the state’s transportation projects.

The Highway Trust Fund is expected to run out of money at the end of July, creating a growing sense of urgency for TDOT to find a way to address its crumbling infrastructure.