As I write this column on February 22, it appears that our short, mild winter might already be behind us despite the fact that spring does not officially arrive until March 20. Everywhere I look flowers and trees are blooming and I fear that my lawn mower will soon be emerging from hibernation. Hopefully this early escape from the clutches of Old Man Winter does not foreshadow another hot, dry summer.
Regardless of the summer forecast, we have a hot topic coming up in Nashville. Governor Haslam has proposed the state's first gas tax increase since 1989. The IMPROVE Act would pave the way for more than 960 transportation projects across the state. As proposed, the plan would also bring $39 million in new transportation funding for cities and $78 million in new funding for counties. In Washington, the Trump Administration has raised the possibility of a major (up to $1 trillion) infrastructure initiative that would address ground, air, rail, and waterway transportation needs across the nation. While few would argue that our transportation systems need more support, the tax increases and credits which would bring new funding and investment at either the state or national level are likely to meet some resistance.
Roadway safety continues to be an area of emphasis in Tennessee. Seatbelt use is at its highest observed level (89%) since statewide observational surveys began in 1986. New cars are built to provide more crash protection than ever before, and in many cases they include advanced technology designed to help drivers prevent crashes. Much emphasis has been placed on safer roadways and improved guidance for drivers. Law enforcement agencies across the state devote time and energy to traffic enforcement in an effort to reduce the frequency and severity of crashes. Despite these advances, Tennessee's year-to-date traffic fatality total (125) stands at 11 more than on the same date in 2016. Some of this problem can be attributed to historically high vehicle miles of travel across the nation. Some may be the result of distracted driving. Regardless, we cannot afford to relax our efforts to make the state's roads safer for all Tennesseans.
Finally, I am excited that our traffic sign retroreflectivity survey provided a valuable look at the ongoing sign maintenance efforts of many agencies. In a time of spam, unsolicited emails, and overflowing inboxes, the number of responses to the survey (77) indicates that this is still an important issue. While most survey participants (82%) are aware of the MUTCD's minimum retroreflectivity standards, only 12% indicated that their agency is currently in full compliance. Most are struggling to attain full sign retroreflectivity compliance without increased funding, and proposed retroreflectivity standards for pavement markings will only make this task more difficult. TTAP will certainly use this information to guide our future activities.
That's all for now. Please do not hesitate to contact me if there is anything that TTAP can do to help you meet your community's transportation needs.
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996 | 865-974-1000
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