Local impact of federal road money drying up
Financial struggles in Washington are putting one local construction project at risk.
Wednesday, June 25th 2014, 5:40 PM EDT
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Financial troubles on Capitol Hill could mean missing out on local road improvements. At risk is the next step of the massive Highway 27 project around downtown Chattanooga. It's a situation that has our leaders looking for solutions.
The first phase of the Highway 27 project on the north side of the Olgiati Bridge is expected to be complete by February, but the second part that would straighten out 27's curves around downtown could be in trouble. That's because the Federal Highway Trust Fund is going broke.
"The federal government has over-committed dollars from what they're receiving so because of that the federal trust fund will become insolvent in the next 30-40 days," TDOT Transportation Commissioner John Schroer said.
TDOT Commissioner John Schroer is checking in on the progress of local road projects currently underway, like the new US-41 bridge over Nickajack and expanded Highway 27 in North Chattanooga. As TDOT finishes these lengthy projects, he worries the next projects may not happen. Possibly, the rest of the Highway 27 project from the Olgiati Bridge to I-24.
"We're in a pretty precarious situation for the next 90-120 days and we're just trying to muddle our way through it," Schroer said.
If the fund, which pays for more than half of the country's transportation projects, isn't somehow replenished, TDOT's budget could be cut in half.
"The funding has dried up, there is no more money left because we haven't raised the gas tax since 1993," Senator Bob Corker said.
Senator Corker wants to raise the gas and diesel tax by 12 cents over the next two years, generating billions over several years. But, he tells Channel 3 the problem still won't be solved as fast as needed.
"What you're going to see Congress do, irresponsibly is to figure a way to patch this for six months, but pay for it by borrowing money from our children. I can't participate in that," Sen. Corker said.
Some drivers say they're not so sure it's worth it for some locally planned projects.
"I mean it kind of seems like a waste of money when they've just spent all that money doing the new thing," Chattanooga resident Jillian Henley said.
But if the money is secured, TDOT says there's no doubt they'll start taking bids to finish off the downtown portion of Highway 27.