TDOT Finds Savings in Being Less ‘Political’

TDOT Commissioner John Schroer speaks at the opening of State Route 840. Image courtesy Bill Haslam/Flickr

TDOT Commissioner John Schroer speaks at the opening of State Route 840. Image courtesy Bill Haslam/Flickr

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is acknowledging that politics have been driving where some roads get built. As road-building revenues continue to decline, TDOT is looking for savings by listening less to lawmakers.

When a legislator asks for some kind of new road, TDOT has been quick to at least agree to study the issue. The problem is that it’s rarely just studying. And once the ball gets rolling, projects become almost impossible to stop, says TDOT Commissioner John Schroer.

In state budget hearings going on now, Schroer points to a proposed $46 million bypass in Dickson that was just scuttled in favor of a few intersection changes and stoplight syncing.

“But the sad thing is that in that process, we spent about $6 million studying the project. So we spent $6 million to make a $1.4 million decision.”

Schroer says the agency is doing all it can to not build new roads and work with what’s already on the ground. This avoids the costly environmental reviews and purchasing right-of-way. He calls the initiative “right-sizing” and says a single road-building project being reworked now could end up saving $100 million.

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