At a press conference held this morning in AAA’s downtown offices, Public Affairs Director Stephanie Milani announced the specific effects that Tennessee’s new IMPROVE Act will have on local infrastructure projects—including funding for improvements to accident-prone Alcoa and Chapman highways.
The IMPROVE Act is the result of a legislative initiative that began in 2015, when Gov. Bill Haslam’s statewide “Listening Tour” revealed the pressing need for infrastructural improvements across Tennessee. The act is designed to help finance these improvements while simultaneously instituting a series of tax cuts, including a 20 percent decrease in grocery sales tax, tax breaks for manufactures, and property tax relief for eligible elderly and disabled homeowners. In order to do both at the same time, the act calls for a new fuel tax, to be implemented gradually over the next three years.
“This new tax is more in line with what other states are doing,” Milani says. “At the moment, our tax on gasoline is higher than our tax on diesel fuel, which is the opposite of what most states do. When this is fully implemented, the diesel tax will be higher than the gas tax.”
A press release put out by the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee—a lobbying group that formed earlier this year with members ranging from AAA and the Tennessee Road Builders Association to Bike Walk Tennessee and the AARP—argues that raising the fuel tax is an especially unobtrusive way to generate funds because “Tennessee residents won’t shoulder the entire burden alone, as revenue will be captured from visiting tourists and trucks that move goods through the state.” The TCT estimates that these new taxes will generate $25,874,627 of new local revenue for infrastructure improvement in Knox County over the next 15 years.
High-profile projects that will receive additional funding through the IMPROVE Act include reconstruction of the ramps that join Jackson Avenue to Gay Street, road widening and interchange improvements along Alcoa Highway, and road widening and the installation of paved shoulders along Chapman Highway from Blount Avenue to Boyd’s Creek Highway.
Here’s the TCT’s complete list (excluding the projects above):
Road Repair and Reconstruction:
- Improvements to I-75 from Emory Road to Raccoon Valley Road and at the I-640 interchange in Sharp’s Gap
- Improvements to interchange between I-40 Westbound and I-275
Installation of center lanes, GRIDSMART traffic management systems, or other safety measures:
- Intersection of Kingston Pike and Northshore Drive
- Interchange between Pellissippi Parkway (I-140) and Oak Ridge Highway
- I-275 bridge over Elm Street
- I-40 Bridge over I-40-LL/17th Street
- I-40 Bridge over Wesley Road
- Northshore Drive Bridge over Sinking Creek
Improvement of signage and installation of SmartWay traffic cameras:
- I-75 from Mile Marker 109 to Exit 122
- I-40 from Exit 398 to Exit 407
- Alcoa Highway from Pellissippi Parkway (I-140) in Blount County to Cherokee Trail in Knox County
- Pellissippi Parkway (I-140) from Mile Marker 2 to Alcoa Highway
Infrastructural improvements along roadways, such as the extension of sewer, water, and electrical lines, to handle increasing urban development:
- Oak Ridge Highway from Shaad Road to East Emory Road
- East Emory Road
Thomas Stubbs is a lifelong Knoxvillian, although these days he spends the academic year in Greenville, South Carolina, majoring in History and Communications Studies at Furman University. He’ll be a senior when he returns to Furman in the fall, a fact which mystifies him as much as it does everyone else. He writes a column for Furman’s newspaper, The Paladin, covering theatre and the Greenville arts scene. In his spare time, Thomas may be found singing in any number of choirs or catching up with old friends.
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