Public-Private Road Proposal Dropped in Favor of Toll Bridge Plan

By ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press Writer

NASHVILLE (AP) - The sponsor of a bill that would allow public-private road-building partnerships says he is withdrawing the measure from consideration this session to instead concentrate on a toll bridge proposal.

House Transportation Chairman Phillip Pinion, a Union City Democrat, said Friday there is interest from several local governments around the state in getting toll bridge projects approved while current law allows only a single pilot project.

Pinion said the toll bridge option becomes more important as federal money for road projects dries up.

While charging for highway access has been a common way to fund road building and maintenance in much of the country, most of the South has resisted the trend.

Pinion now wants to lift the Tennessee's cap on how many toll bridge projects the state could approve.

But he acknowledged that it would be difficult to get his fellow lawmakers to warm to his companion proposal to promote partnerships between the public and private sectors on road projects.

The new toll bridges proposed by local governments so far include:

  • A Hamilton County span to cut travel time between Chattanooga and Soddy-Daisy.

  • A bridge giving Hendersonville residents faster access to Interstate 40 and Nashville's airport.

  • A third bridge over the Mississippi River in Shelby County.

  • Replacing a ferry between Houston and Benton Counties.

Developers proposing a $4 billion hotel, shopping and residential center in the Bells Bend area of Nashville have said that the project is contingent on a new bridge over the Cumberland River, and have told Pinion that it might be a good candidate for a toll bridge.

Pinion said he only wants the state to consider proposals approved by local governments that recognize that their projects could take years to move up on the state Transportation Department's priority list.

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