TDOT IMPROVE ACT PROJECTS (~•) In 2017, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the “Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads, and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy” or IMPROVE Act to raise revenue to accelerate the construction of projects across Tennessee. The Regional Transportation Plan includes $4 billion to help implement those projects located within the Nashville metropolitan area. OTHER FUNDED IMPROVEMENTS (~•) The Plan allocates an additional $1.5 billion to implement projects spearheaded by municipal and county governments. Those improvements are scheduled over the next 25 years in one of three time periods including a short-term horizon (2021-2025), a mid-term horizon (2026-2035), and a long-term horizon (2036-2045). Most of those projects are needed today, but will need to wait years due to funding limitations. Those delays will add to increased costs as inflation takes it toll. ILLUSTRATIVE NEEDS (~•) There are more than 100 additional projects that cannot be implemented at current or anticipated levels of funding during the next quarter century. Those projects are in addition to regional initiatives to expand and modernize transit service. The region’s overall funding shortfall exceeds $10 billion or more when all identified unfunded projects are taken into consideration.
ADDITIONAL FUNDING OPTIONS To speed up project delivery and to address more of our transportation challenges, elected leaders will need local support to consider the following options to plug the gap. While Tennessee increased its user fees in 2017, the federal motor fuels taxes have not been adjusted in nearly 30 years.
INDEX GASOLINE TAX TO INFLATION
What do places like Denver, Austin, and Charlotte have in common with places like Kalamazoo, MI and Lakeland, FL? They all have local taxes dedicated to public transit. The Nashville area is one of the largest metros in the nation without it. The IMPROVE Act permits Middle Tennessee counties to pursue dedicated funding for transit programs through a voter referendum. Some states allow motorists to pay a fee to use area roadways, similar to someone paying a transit fair when boarding a bus or train. Funding from fees is used to pay for the construction and maintenance of roadway lanes that might not otherwise have been built. Some areas change the price throughout the day to help manage traffic conditions. One of the shortcomings of the gas tax is that it is levied at a per gallon rate. Since the revenue generated from fuel taxes does not increase with the price of gasoline, the tax is not able to sustain its value over the long-term due to inflation. One solution is to index the per gallon rate to inflation so that it automatically increases over time within a set of limits set by the legislature or an independent commission. The gasoline tax will not be a viable revenue stream as hybrid and electric vehicles grow in market share. Instead of relying on fuel consumption to generate revenue, a distance-based fee would have users pay based on the amount of travel - much in the same way people pay for utilities. This type of fee could be calculated using existing technology and the rate could vary by route, time-of-day, or congestion levels to help manage traffic flow.
DISTANCE-BASED OR VEHICLE MILES TRAVELED FEE
LOCAL/REGIONAL DEDICATED FUNDING FOR TRANSIT
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