TDOT estimates Black’s highway improvement plan would cost billions of dollars

The Tennessee Department of Transportation estimates that one component of Republican gubernatorial candidate Diane Black’s plan to address infrastructure and traffic congestion in Tennessee could cost more than $2 billion, reports The Tennessean.

Last month, Black outlined her proposal, which included double-stacking three interstates in Nashville, completing Interstate 840 north of Music City and adding a third lane for interstates in rural areas. 

The most expensive component of Black’s plan could be the portion related to rural interstates, according to TDOT.

While introducing her plan, Black’s campaign said she wanted to add a third lane to interstates in rural areas because “driving from Lebanon to Cookeville during high volume windows can be just as hectic as downtown Nashville.”

“The cost to widen the roughly 843 miles of rural interstates from 2-3 lanes in each direction is estimated to be $12.7 billion,” TDOT’s spokeswoman B.J. Doughty said.

Chris Hartline, a spokesman for Black’s campaign, objected to TDOT’s totaling, saying Black’s plan does not call for adding a third lane on “every mile of rural interstates.” 

Hartline said the plan was seeking to add a third lane “where there are problems — such as between Lebanon and Cookeville.”

As was the case when Black introduced her proposal, Hartline did not specify the total number of miles of rural interstates she would expand.   

Doughty said closing the I-840 loop would cost an “estimated $2.1 billion to $2.5 billion.”

… TDOT was not able to provide an estimate of Black’s proposal to double-stack interstates in Nashville because the department has not studied such a project, Doughty said. 

Note: In its separate report on the GOP gubernatorial debate Wednesday night, The Tennessean includes this comment from Black when asked about the TDOT estimates:

“Every major city has a bypass around the city, we only have half of that bypass. We need to complete the rest of that bypass,” she said, referring to the proposal to complete the Interstate 840 loop, which TDOT said could cost $2.5 billion.

Asked how she would pay for her proposal, Black said it would paid for with local, state and federal money.

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