Gov. Bill Haslam released a plan Wednesday that could give more money to local governments for transportation and infrastructure.
Titled the “Improve Act,” Haslam aims to help improve the state’s transportation infrastructure, with the hope of creating sustainable road funding for Tennessee.
The Improve Act would bring $278 million new dollars to the state.
Cities – including the six in Williamson County – will receive an additional $39 million, which is a 40 percent increase. Counties would receive an additional $78 million for local projects, allowing them to keep property and other local taxes low.
It will also include a 7-cent-per-gallon increase on the gasoline tax, which hasn’t been raised since the late 1980s, and a 12-cent increase on diesel fuel.
Here’s what that means for Williamson’s municipalities in terms of additional revenue from the gas and diesel tax:
Brentwood – Diesel: $119,955 // Gas: $318,982
Fairview – Diesel: $22,921 // Gas: $60,952
Franklin – Diesel: $197,060 // Gas: $524,018
Nolensville – Diesel: $23,562 // Gas: $62,658
Thompson’s Station – Diesel: $7,960 // Gas: $21,167
Spring Hill –Diesel: $95,169 // Gas: $253,071
Road projects to happen by 2035:
The plan details 962 projects in all 95 Tennessee counties. It would mean 45 projects to improve interstates; 89 to improve access in rural communities; 51 geared toward economic opportunities; 162 bridges replaced on state highways; and 526 bridges replaced on county roads.
For Williamson County, the estimated cost is $466.5 million between bridges and state route improvements.
Here are Williamson’s projects in the plan:
• US Highway 31A/41A – Horton Highway Bridge over Branch – estimated cost: $241,000
• US Highway 31A/41A – Nolensville Road Bridge over Branch – estimated cost: $1.036 million
• US Highway 31 (State Route 6) – East Main Street Bridge over Harpeth River – estimated cost: $4.5 million
• US Highway 31 – Columbia Pike Bridge over the West Harpeth – estimated cost $2.04 million
• US Highway 31A/41A – Horton Highway Bridge over the Harpeth River –estimated cost: 2.7 million
• US Highway 31A/41A – Nolensville Road Bridge over Mill Creek – estimated cost: $1.4 million
• US Highway 31A/41A –Nolensville Road Bridge over McCanless Branch – estimated $2.4 million
• US Highway 31 – Columbia Pike Bridge over CSX railroad – estimated cost: 2.8 million
• State Route Highway 96 – Murfreesboro Road bridge over Mayes Creek – estimated cost: $1.4 million
• State Route Highway 96 – Third Avenue South Bridge over Harpeth River – estimated cost: $3.25 million
• State Route 100 – Fairview Boulevard improvements from Bowie Lake Road to Interstate 840 – estimated cost: $51 million
• State Route 397 – (northwestern quadrant) Mack Hatcher Parkway from south of Highway 96 to US-431 improvements – estimated cost: $43.3 million
• US Highway 31 – Columbia Pike improvements from Thompson’s Station to Mack Hatcher Parkway in Franklin
• State Route 397 – (southeastern quadrant) Mack Hatcher Memorial Parkway improvements from Highway 96 east of Franklin to Columbia Pike south of Franklin – estimated cost: $35 million
• State Route 96 – Murfreesboro Road from east of Wilson Pike to Interstate 840 – estimated cost: $27.6 million
• State Route 96 – Murfreesboro Road from east of Arno Road to east of Wilson Pike – estimated cost $37.5 million
• Interstate 65 – interchange at Moores Lane reconstruction – estimated cost: $20 million
• US Highway 31 – Columbia Pike improvements from Fowlkes Street to Mack Hatcher Memorial Parkway – estimated cost: $23.5 million
• US Highway 31A/41A – Nolensville Pike from South Burkitt Road to north of Mill Creek – estimated cost: $50.4 million
• State Route 96 – From Interstate 840 in Williamson County to Veterans Parkway in Rutherford County – estimated cost: $45.4 million
• US Highway 31 – Columbia Pike widening of Duplex Road in Spring to Interstate 840 in Thompson’s Station – estimated cost: $60 million
What it would mean to Franklin’s mayor
Mayor Ken Moore has been a stark advocate for having sustainable funding for bettering roads.
Last year, he and the Board of Mayor and Alderman sent a resolution to the state legislature asking them to create a revenue source for roads.
He now feels like he’s been heard.
“I think this is what we’ve been asking for,” Moore said Thursday after coming back from Knoxville speaking to new legislators.
“I think there may be disagreement. I think I would like to have seen it more robust on the gasoline side, but that might be the maximum amount we get passed. We aren’t stuck for another 20 plus years waiting until something else happens.”
Moore said the additional potential funding for Franklin could mean the ability to work on some of the city’s capital funding projects.
“We have enough state projects that we need done,” Moore said. “Mack Hatcher northwest and northeast would be important to move traffic in our community. We are already doing Hillsboro Road, Columbia Avenue and Franklin Road. That can contribute a lot to improvement.”
The mayor said he also liked the option of potentially allowing residents to have more of a voice through a referendum. Within the governor’s plan is room for municipalities to decide on whether they would like to host a referendum to use a portion of the sales tax toward transit in their community.
“I think it’s an important part of it,” he said. “I would like to have seen a broader opportunity to spread it over any taxing authority we have, whether its gasoline tax, sales tax or some other options. That might get hashed out in the General Assembly. I think the local option is a positive, not that we are going to exercise it soon. We don’t have a product to sell yet for mass transit project.”
What it would mean to Thompson’s Station’s mayor
Just because it’s 15 square miles, it doesn’t mean the smaller of Williamson’s town doesn’t have its traffic woes.
Highway 31 is a point of constant contention, one with stacked up cars at rush hour from commuter traffic.
“I feel like our community knows we have to do our part and will be supportive on the way forward for funding options, or funding options that match up with our priorities,” Mayor Corey Napier said.
Like Moore, Napier said he looked forward to the opportunity for municipalities to have their say in a referendum. As he put it, there are “no free lunches.” He said the community needs to know how much it cost to reverse its traffic issues.
“I think if you put some of that control in local municipalities … the leadership of Williamson County is able to – and has in the last year – come together to identify needs,” he said.
Napier said it was also important that his constituency stay informed and took a perspective of working together with its neighboring cities, particularly Spring Hill.
“It is hugely important to educate the public on what the priorities are,” Napier said. “It is a shared pain and a shared gain. We should be thinking regionally, not in terms of Thompson’s Station wins and Spring Hill loses or vice versa.”
“It is something we need to work on as a county, on how we come together and work on it as a collectively, saying we need help and want to be part of a solution.”
What it would mean to Spring Hill’s mayor
Standing behind Gov. Haslam during the announcement, Mayor Rick Graham had a smile on his face.
Out of the governor’s proposed plan, he said he looked forward to the potential of more money from the gas and diesel tax increases.
“To put into perspective what this new revenue could mean to our residents, a penny in property tax in Spring Hill represents roughly $100,000, meaning this new revenue stream would replace almost 3.5 pennies in property tax value,” Graham said. “That 3.5 cents would be an equivalent of about $40 in property taxes for a $450,000 home in Spring Hill, or about $22 for a $250,000 home, saved by the homeowners.”
The proposal also would allow municipalities like Spring Hill to choose if they would like to hold a ballot referendum to allow residents to decide whether to impose a surcharge on local sales tax rates to help fund public transit projects.
“I was pleased to know that the plan also offers this latitude to cities who may have additional growth-related transportation needs, as we do in Spring Hill,” Graham said.
Brentwood Mayor Regina Smithson said she planned to think over the governor’s plan more in the coming days.
“Since it was just announced yesterday I’d really like to study the proposal a little bit more before making a formal statement,” Smithson said.
Nolensville and Fairview mayors were unavailable to comment.
Zach Harmuth contributed to this report.