Chamber Lobbies for New Highway Bill, But Tennessee Congressmen Split on Idea

Last week, four Tennesseans joined a 100-person group from the Chamber of Commerce lobbying for a new bill to fund highway projects. Some Tennessee Congressmen say it would increase jobs, but others are skeptical.

The Senate voted last week to put off a federal bill that would inject $500 billion dollars into the aging highway system. But House members want to move faster. Democrat Lincoln Davis says it’s the best economic recovery plan Congress can buy.

“We are about at capacity as far as roads are concerned. And there are many, there are many two-lane highways not wide enough to travel safely, it really puts a chokehold in some of those small rural communities from being able to be a part of economic growth we’ve seen over the years.”

The Department of Transportation says every billion federal dollars invested in highways creates almost 48,000 jobs.

A new gas tax may be needed to pay for the plan. Business group lobbyists, like four from Knoxville, pushed Congress for the bill last week. They call the gas tax a user fee for people who drive on highways.

Republican John Duncan isn’t convinced.

“The only way that I would favor increasing the gas tax would be if the radical environmentalists would allow us to increase our energy production in this country so that we could bring down our energy costs.”

Proponents of the highway bill say they may have to wait until Congress and the administration finish front-burner items like climate change and health care.

Reported by Tanya Snyder.

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