Gov. Bill Haslam still not taking stance on solution to fund transportation projects

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Could you have to pay more when gassing up to help fund road construction?

It is one of the options state leaders are considering.

Gov. Bill Haslam is halfway through with meetings being held across the state to discuss ways to fund transportation projects.

He said part of the problem is that more and more people are switching to high-efficiency vehicles, which means less revenue is being generated by the gas tax. But not everyone thinks the solution to funding is paying more at the pump.

“What about everybody who can’t afford the more fuel-efficient vehicles?” driver Terrence Boyce asked. “It’s rough on us, because I don’t have a fuel-efficient vehicle.”

Raising the gas tax is just one of the solutions state leaders are considering to close a staggering gap between transportation needs in Tennessee and available funding.

“The state has about $6 billion worth of backlog projects,” Haslam said.

In Haslam’s travels throughout the state, he has been holding meetings with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and local leaders about transportation funding.

Although he is about halfway through those meetings, Haslam is no closer to taking a stance on a solution.

“We haven’t proposed one thing yet, at all,” he said. “We’ve said it’s really important the state understand the issue, and so we’re out around the state having that conversation to understand the issue.”

Sen. Mark Norris said it is not a discussion that should be rushed.

“In order to have an intelligent conversation, we must first have a conversation, and if we start off talking only about a gas tax, ain’t no conversation,” he said.

But drivers, like Boyce, worry the outcome will involve the state digging deeper into their pockets.

“I don’t think they should raise gas prices any more than they are,” Boyce said.

One project Haslam has been focusing on is Lamar Avenue. He said the cost of fixing it is around $270 million.

His transportation meetings will continue across the state through next month.

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