Transportation is an important part of state and local government budgets in Tennessee, and transportation infrastructure can also impact public health. Since good data and research are critical components of thoughtful public policy, our Executive Director Laura Berlind and Board President Jim Bryson have an op-ed in The Tennessean today giving context to current discussions about transportation policy in our state:
Tennessee takes a “pay as you go” approach to highway funding. That means two things: we don’t borrow money to build roads, and we don’t build roads unless we have money dedicated to pay for them. As lawmakers consider where to get that money, they should also understand how we got to this point.
So where did the $10.5 billion backlog come from? One culprit is inflation. Since 1989, Tennessee’s state gas tax has put 20 cents into our Highway Fund every time you buy a gallon of gas. Inflation, meanwhile, has cut the dollar’s purchasing power by almost 50 percent. In other words, gas tax revenues that paid for a new bridge 30 years ago will now buy about half of a bridge.