TRANSIT: Tenn. governor promises gas tax hike will fund transit, not just roads

Gov. Haslam spoke recently with the Associated Press

June 29, 2015

In an day and age when the earmarking of scant funding is a perpetual political hot potato, the state of Tennessee is poised to step outside the arena of vague promises and make tax-based strides toward transit improvements.

Gov. Bill Haslam recently stipulated that proceeds from a potential fuel tax hike, which would increase Tennessee’s transportation funding, should not be limited to road and bridge projects. Public transit, the Republican governor said, needs to be part of the equation, notably in light of the increasing gridlock in Nashville and surrounding Middle Tennessee counties.

The governor acknowledged that big transit projects are made more difficult because “federal money has dried up,” and the state doesn’t have as many resources to address the issue, without relying on what has traditionally been an unpopular methodology: raising taxs.

This past January, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean abandoned his $175 million proposal to create a seven-mile bus rapid transit route, to be called the Amp, which would have connected the eastern and western sections of the city through downtown on designated lanes. Lack of funding sources was seen as a primary cause. If the governor’s proposal finds enough support, such projects could finally soon see the light of day.