VOL. 133 | NO. 119 | Thursday, June 14, 2018
City Turns 22 Major Streets Back Over to TDOT
By Bill Dries
A decades-long contract under which the city of Memphis maintains 22 state routes or highways on behalf of the state of Tennessee is coming to an end.
City leaders announced Wednesday, June 13, they will not renew the agreement with the state when it runs out June 30. Under the terms of the contract, the city fills potholes, removes trash, performs drainage maintenance, cuts grass in medians and rights of way, and treat roads in snow and ice on nearly two dozen of the city’s major thoroughfares.
“For as long as anybody in the city can remember, we entered into a contract where we would maintain the rights of way and take care of the state highways that were within the city of Memphis limits,” said city chief operating officer Doug McGowen. “We are allowing that contract to expire at the end of this (fiscal) year in collaboration with our friends at TDOT (Tennessee Department of Transportation), with whom we have and will continue to maintain a great working relationship.”
The city of Memphis was the last local government in the state to have such an agreement with the state, McGowen said.
“Our costs exceeded our reimbursement. Just the cost to provide service continued to creep up,” he said. “And the ability to keep the contract current with what it was costing us – it was lagging behind after all those years.”
He puts the city’s expenses at $2.5 million a year and what the city was getting from the state at $1.5 million.
The city will redeploy the funding and resources to the 6,000 lane miles of city streets that remain the city’s responsibility.
“Consistent with our ‘brilliant at the basics’ theme, we need to take care of the things we are solely responsible for taking care of,” McGowen said. “The state has an agency that has a very large capacity to take care of state highways. No one’s going to help us maintain the streets or pick up the litter in our neighborhoods but the city of Memphis.”
The state routes and highways include many of the city’s most-traveled major thoroughfares that Memphians know by names and not numbers. They include Poplar Avenue east of East Parkway; Bill Morris Parkway; Union Avenue east of Second Street; Walnut Grove Road west of Interstate 240; all of E.H. Crump Boulevard and all of Lamar Avenue; Elvis Presley Boulevard and Bellevue Boulevard south of Union; Covington Pike; and Second Street south of Chelsea Avenue.
By the July 1 start of state control and day-to-day responsibility, the city will have a contact point with the state Department of Transportation to refer complaints, calls for service and legal claims on the state roads.
McGowen said it will be a “warm hand-off” between the city and state that citizens probably won’t notice.
“I don’t think most citizens care. They just want to know that someone is going to take care of the pothole,” he said. “It’s just a function of what does the sticker say on the side of the truck.”