A visit to Clarksville late last week from Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner and Deputy Gov. Butch Eley helped regional government agency leaders conceptualize how key road projects and other transportation concerns fit into TDOT’s newly-authorized Transportation Modernization Act.
On his rounds across the state, Commissioner Eley paid a visit to the April monthly meeting of the Clarksville Urbanized Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).
The MPO, chaired by Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts, is an organization of local governments and relevant federal, state and local transportation agencies and departments in Tennessee and Kentucky – with the principal focus being travel in Montgomery and Christian counties, and their respective municipalities.
Commissioner Eley said the state will, through the Transportation Modernization Act, invest $3.3 billion to accommodate Tennessee’s record growth, address traffic congestion, and meet transportation needs across rural and urban communities.
“The important thing I would point out is that, of that $3.3 billion, $300 million goes directly to the counties,” Commissioner Eley said, noting that represents a 15 percent increase in state aid to counties in one year.
Gov. Bill Lee, who signed the legislation on Monday, April 17, said the strategy will meet Tennessee’s transportation needs across urban and rural communities without new taxes or debt.
It is designed to give TDOT resources needed to solve the state’s current and future mobility challenges, including seeking the use of public-private partnerships to preserve state funds for rural infrastructure priorities, exploring Choice Lanes for motorists to decrease traffic congestion and increase economic impact statewide, and expanding the alternative delivery model that can save taxpayer dollars and deliver road projects more efficiently.
“Tennessee is facing a critical juncture when it comes to mobility, and our new transportation strategy will prepare TDOT to build and maintain roads across rural and urban communities,” said Commissioner Eley.
“I appreciate the partnership that we have with this (Clarksville Urbanized MPO). I believe this Modernization Act will give us the tools we need for infrastructure to move the state forward in transportation, including your communities in this MPO,” Commissioner Eley said.
“Before this Act, we all know that we have had an unsustainable revenue stream to do what we need to do for transportation. There are faster and more-efficient delivery models and we are now going to be able to see those come into play,” he said.
For Clarksville-Montgomery County and the other communities embraced by this MPO, dollars will be leveraged, and freed up to help pay for transportation priorities like widening Interstate 24 which is an important project for Clarksville and Montgomery County, as well as Hopkinsville, Oak Grove and Christian County.
"It was an honor to have Commissioner Eley attend the MPO meeting and give us an update on the recently-enacted Transportation Modernization Act," said Clarksville Mayor and MPO Chairman Joe Pitts.
"This innovative transportation plan will allow local governments to advance infrastructure improvements to address traffic, the number one issue across every growing community," Mayor Pitts said. "The City of Clarksville will use the TMA to partner with the state and others to improve roads. public transit, and pedestrian safety."
Montgomery County Mayor Wes Golden, who also sits on the MPO panel, added that he looks forward to the organization's close work with Commissioner Eley.
"I appreciate the Commissioner taking the time to meet with our community, and I look forward to seeing how we can continue to work together to expedite the projects and needs of Montgomery County," Mayor Golden said.
Of the Act, Commissioner Eley said the talking point that has gained the most interest is the concept of building additional Choice Lanes in high-traffic areas to relieve congestion during peak travel times.
Choice Lanes are priced, managed lanes that use pricing to proactively manage demand and provide travel-time reliability. Choice Lanes allow motorists to maintain consistent travel speeds even when the adjacent general purpose lanes are congested, says TDOT.
These Choice Lanes are new lanes and typically operate at around 50 mph during rush hours when traditional lanes are barely moving or even at a standstill during peak periods. TDOT says the proposal is not to be confused with toll roads, which the state is not proposing.
Along with the progress in the Transportation Modernization Act and what it means for local road projects – including widening Interstate 24 – the regional MPO continues to monitor progress on other key transportation projects to include, among others, work on Spring Creek Parkway, Trenton Road improvements, and Rossview Road and Dunbar Cave Road in the City of Clarksville; and County projects outside of the city limits to include Rossview Road leading to Kirkwood Road, and State Highway 12 at Excell Road.
Representation on the MPO, in addition to the City of Clarksville, also includes Montgomery County Government, the Clarksville Transit System now led by Director Michael Ringgenberg, plus a lengthy slate of other officials from Clarksville-Montgomery County; Hopkinsville, Oak Grove and Christian County, Ky.; TDOT, the Greater Nashville Regional Council, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Federal Highway Administration, and the Regional Planning Commission.