Transportation and infrastructure are areas of focus for Gov. Bill Haslam as he enters the new year, with the governor being quoted as saying he plans to unveil a plan for projects and funding.
While work to the state's thousands of miles of roads is no doubt on the list, public transportation advocates want to remind Haslam that mass transit also is key to solving traffic and mobility issues.
"Roads and bridges are obviously critically important," says Jason Spain, executive director of the Tennessee Public Transportation Association. "If we're talking about a comprehensive look at our infrastructure system in Tennessee, it has to include public transportation.
"We've reached a point where it's no longer feasible to think that we can just build our way out of congestion issues in the urban areas, and in the rural areas, it's an issue of mobility, connecting people with jobs, doctor's appointments, schools."
This month the Tennessee Transit Coalition - comprised of Spain's group, as well as AARP and the Tennessee Disability Coalition and others - delivered 1,000 signatures from 60 counties to the governor's desk, letting him know that public transportation is a priority for their communities.
The state's transportation system is funded by gas and diesel taxes, but the last tax increase was in 1989 and since then fuel efficient vehicles have taken a chunk out of the state's revenue.
Spain says that's why taking action on transportation and infrastructure must be a priority.
"It's not just a Nashville issue," he points out. "It's not just a middle Tennessee issue. It's all across the state that people see the need for more and better transit service, and we hope the administration will see the importance of that and make it a part of their proposal."
According to a study by the University of Tennessee, if the gas tax is increased, 57 percent of respondents support increased funding for biking, walking and transit.
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