Though motorists may not be belting out a tune at the Grand Ole Opry, the frustrating Tennessee travel situation has many drivers singing the blues. It's little wonder, because several of the Volunteer State's highways are on a nonprofit research organization's list of the most heavily congested roadways for commuter traffic in America.
The American Transportation Research Institute put together a ranking of the country's most bottlenecked highways. Ranked from 1 to 100, No. 20 was Interstate 24, accessible via I-440 North in Nashville. Further down the list at No. 29 was I-65, via I-24 in Nashville, with I-40 in Memphis in the No. 32 spot.
In addition to heavy volume, adding to the adverse conditions are roads in dire need of repair – a trend not only in Tennessee but nationwide. For instance, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association says close to 56,000 bridges all across the country are considered "structurally deficient." The Volunteer State has 20,123 bridges in use, 5% of which require significant repairs.
What's being done to fix the problem?
Fully cognizant of Tennessee's infrastructure problems, Gov. Bill Haslam recently introduced legislation designed to fix what's broken. It's called the IMPROVE Act, short for Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads, and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy. Announced in January, the plan – if approved – would implement a number of sweeping changes affecting Tennesseeans' wallets, including increasing the road user fee 7 cents per gallon and car registration fees by $5. Haslam's office says these small surcharges will lead to big results, yielding $278 million to go toward infrastructure rehabilitation.
"These … investments will move the state forward and position the next Tennessee for continued growth, prosperity and opportunity for our children and grandchildren," Haslam said in a press release.
Supporters of the legislation are confident the roadway improvements will help ease congestion and frustration, potentially lowering the risk of car accidents and Tennessee auto insurance rate adjustments.
The IMPROVE Act still needs a green light from the state legislature, but if the bill moves forward and is signed into law as currently constituted, all 95 of Tennessee's counties would see highway renovations in the coming years. Indeed, 962 projects will get underway between now and 2030. Most of these will target the state's bridges – 526 require replacing, mainly on county roads. The same is true for 162 state highways, which includes some of the bottlenecked thoroughfares referenced by ATRI.
We'll keep you posted on these developments down the road!