Tennessee's governor released his 3-year transportation plan this week, but other officials are looking much further ahead: The IMPROVE Act lays out funding for projects on roads and bridges across the state over the next 15 years.
The two biggest items on that $10.5 billion to-do list, funded by the new gas tax, are in Middle Tennessee. One is the a $400 million project upgrading on-ramps, technology and other aspects of I-24 from Nashville to Murfreesboro.
"That's one of the most congested corridors in the state," says Paul Degges, the chief engineer with the Tennessee Dept. of Transportation.
The second is a $397.4 million plan to widen I-65 to three lanes all the way north to the Kentucky border. That will also relieve congestion, Degges says — when it's done. In the meantime, over the next 12 to 15 years, drivers should expect to slow down for construction.
"The love-hate relationship with the Dept. of Transportation is: They love it when we can widen the road, but they hate it when it's being widened," Degges says.
TDOT tries to avoid extended lane closures, especially during peak driving hours. Crews are working more at night now. The department is also experimenting with completely closing down sections of interstates and highways in order to completely finish a project over a few days, rather than partial closures over long periods of time, Degges says.
"Yes, it will be inconvenient when it's under construction," he says. "But we want to do it at an accelerated rate where it allows motorists to reap the benefits of the pain, so to speak."
But they can't avoid onerous construction completely — especially for the much anticipated repairs on I-440, which will require tearing up swaths of the 10-inch-thick concrete pavement starting in the summer of 2018.
Statewide, crews will work on nearly 1,000 projects over the next decade and a half.