The University of Tennessee, Knoxville


From the Director

by Dave Clarke, P.E.

Whenever we have extreme weather, I know it's time to write my RoadTalk column again. Right now, we're in day 3 of summer 2015, and the high is projected to be a modest 97 degrees. Oh, and the forecast calls for pop-up thunderstorms, probably assuring that the humidity and temperature will be equal. On the bright side, only 73 days till football season!

Summer is the busy time of year for most of you, with both construction and maintenance in full swing. Please take a minute before you start each day to consider how to safely deal with the heat. Protect your skin and eyes, stay hydrated, and don't get overheated. If you experience confusion, lose consciousness, or have high body temperature and dry skin, you are in danger of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Cool off and seek help immediately. It may save your life.

There's been a lot of rain recently, particularly of the summer thunderstorm variety. I've heard several accounts of storm related damage to pavement and ditches. It takes time, but examining your roadway drainage to make sure that it can handle runoff can prevent such damage. Ditches that are filled in and culverts that are blocked or damaged don't do much good when rain falls hard. That water has to go somewhere!

On another note, there is some movement in Washington towards a long-term transportation bill. The Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee is hoping to mark up its portion of the bill before the end of June. The House will also have to follow suit, however, and one unresolved question is how to finance the bill. The financial shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund are well publicized. According to the Congressional Budget Office, $65 billion dollars have been transferred from the general fund since 2008 to keep the trust fund solvent. Even with no further spending, meeting present highway account obligations would take nearly three years of fuel tax revenues.

There is a hue and cry from inside the beltway to raise revenues to "fix" the trust fund. I find myself wondering if this is wholly necessary. According to the Wall Street Journal, spending on non-highway projects has increased nearly 40% since 2008, while highway-related spending has remained flat. A 2013 Heritage Foundation study found that over 20% of gas tax revenues went to non-highway programs. Would an increase in revenue be devoted to highway needs, or would other interests succeed in diverting it? We shall see…

That's it for now. As always, if we can help, please don't hesitate to call or email. TTAP looks forward to assisting you. Stay cool and be safe!