Tennessee makes big infrastructure investment in light of growth, Blount County isn't an exception
By Ashley Depew,2023-06-01
Tennessee is investing $3.3 billion to fund transportation projects and accommodate the state’s record growth. Along with the investment, Tennessee Department of Transportation is adjusting how projects are funded in hopes of decongesting traffic in dense cities while being able to afford projects in rural areas.
Statewide increases in job availability and population encouraged legislators to look at making the large investment.
Blount County’s pending Smith & Wesson and Amazon company investments will open 1,700 jobs in the county, and new residential development in the cities of Alcoa and Maryville encompass over 2,000 new places to live.
This trend isn’t unique to Blount County, the state as a whole is experiencing an economic boom from companies and out-of-state movers.
“As families and businesses move to Tennessee in record numbers, we need a transportation plan to keep up with the pace,” Governor Bill Lee said in an April release when the act was first signed into law.
An informational webpage on the legislation, which is formally named the Transportation Modernization Act, states the investment into transportation isn’t going to increase state taxes, issue road debt or propose toll roads. Public-private partnerships are planned to preserve state funds to put towards infrastructure needs in rural areas.
The Blount Partnership is one of many community organizations that have announced support of the transportation plan. The Partnership works to bring economic opportunity to Blount County by partnering with local businesses, tourism events and national companies.
TDOT community relations officer Mark Nagi said in an email the East Tennessee region — 24 counties including Blount — will collectively receive $750 million for infrastructure projects. Every county in the state will also have access to $300 million that is set aside for local needs as part of a state aid funding program. The remaining $2.25 billion will be split among the other three TDOT regions.
Releases and information from the state provide a vague overview of the investment since specific projects haven’t yet been identified.
The allocation of $750 million for each TDOT region should fund projects for widening rural interstates, improving traffic congestion in major cities and “support(ing) economic development,” among several other bulleted points.
For the rest of the year, Nagi said TDOT will analyze which roadway projects should be considered under this legislation.
TDOT’s analysis will look at the extent of how state, federal and private funding could intermingle for certain projects. Nagi said by spring 2024, TDOT will have a list of projects to complete under the transportation act.