KINGSPORT, TN (WJHL)- Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said the state has a $6 billion backlog of highway projects across the state.
Monday, the governor stopped in Kingsport and Greneville to talk about the need for more money to maintain roads and bridges in the state.
“The needs in Washington County are very, very significant,” Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said.
He said the need just to maintain bridges, and keep roads safe in Washington County, “We’re looking at about 200 million dollars worth of needs over the next 30 years related just to structures.”
And that is just one county.
According to the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee, in Greene and Sullivan counties there are unfinished road projects totaling nearly $215 million.
Carter, Hawkins, Washington, and Unicoi counties have unfinished projects with a cost of more than $136 million.
The state said there are billions of dollars in projects approved across the state but not funded.
“About 95 percent of our roads are rated good or very good right now, that goes to about 50 percent in the next several years if we continue on our current trajectory,” Haslam said.
The state comptroller said right now funding is not expected to be enough to maintain existing infrastructure.
So what is the solution? The governor said they haven’t nailed one down yet.
“We’ve used the gas or diesel tax that you pay, that’s how we pay for roads and all that money just goes to roads, and so there’s not a lot of alternatives, unfortunately there’s not a magic answer, other than looking at changing the structure of how we pay for roads and bridges,” Haslam said.
But Governor Bill Haslam emphasized this tour is not about presenting solutions.
“What we’re out doing first is talking about the need and then we’ll decide after that if people are ready for the solution,” Haslam said.
Haslam said with more fuel efficient cars, construction and labor costs going up, and no long term transportation funding bill from Congress in a decade, more state funding is needed.
“There’s less available dollars to do new things that reduce congestion, that help recruit jobs to Tennessee,” Tennessee Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Paul Degges said.
Though Haslam wouldn’t say if a gas tax hike is the solution, he did imply there could be a cost to drivers.
He said once they have reached a solution, “We probably will then at that point and time go back around the state and talk about here’s what we’re proposing, here’s why we think it’s important, here’s how that would affect you both in terms of the added average cost to a driver,” Haslam said.
Haslam said he will decide in the fall if there will be a specific solution proposed in next year’s legislative session.
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