It’s not my habit to respond to editorials regarding TDOT, but in the case of your Sept. 12 editorial (“The Agency’s Latest Blunders”), I felt it necessary. It contained so much misinformation that it could not be ignored.
Football fans traveling to Knoxville last week encountered no active construction sites. Lanes were open, and there were no major delays other than normal game-day congestion. That’s because for the last several decades, TDOT has asked contractors not to do interstate work during UT home games.
The gas tax in Tennessee is 21.4 cents. Less than 13 cents goes to TDOT, 7.6 cents goes to cities and counties and .8 cents goes to the state general fund. TDOT is funded by user fees. If you use the roads, you pay for the roads. It is the fairest tax there is, and it is used by every state in the nation. One of TDOT’s responsibilities is to respond to congestion. We are accomplishing that in many ways: the HELP program, the Intelligent Transpor- tation System, funding for mass transit and, yes, construction. Many Tennesseans like their cars and move out to the suburbs. The vehicle miles traveled in this state have increased 40 percent in the past decade, which tells us Tennesseans want to drive. Lane miles have increased only 5 percent.
In all projects, TDOT works with the city and/or county involved. Local officials create transportation improvement plans, including road projects, based on the needs in their community. Local planners, not state government, make all decisions regarding zoning. For example, local officials in Williamson County have complete control over the zoning on state Route 840. Contrary to statements made by Mayor Ashe, TDOT works directly with local communities and does involve citizens in the decision-making process. The Knoxville Beltway is a good example. Recognizing the region’s growth, in 1994, the Knoxville Metropolitan Planning Organization requested that TDOT do a study for a beltway. During the process, numerous public meetings and hearings were held. Seventy-five percent of those who attended these hearings are on record as supporting the orange route. Anyone could attend the hearings and state their opinions, whether opposed, supportive or indifferent.
As you pointed out, Franklin Road was recently resurfaced near the Scene offices. It had been more than 10 years since the road had been paved. Our engineers detected cracks under the surface that cannot be seen by Scene staffers driving 40 miles an hour in their SUVs. Had we waited until the road surface deteriorated, the repairs would have taken longer and been more costly.
Unlike many of the folks (perhaps Scene staffers) who have moved here from other areas in recent years, I remember what the roads were like a few decades ago. I encourage all Tennessee motorists to take a minute to consider the highway system on which they drive every day. It is the best in the country, and until motorists choose to park their cars and opt for other modes of transportation, it is the responsibility of TDOT to keep our highways safe and in good condition.
J. Bruce Saltsman Sr., TDOT commissioner
So Liz Garrigan has fessed up that the “Political Notes” column published a couple of weeks ago about Van Hilleary secretly favoring a state income tax was satire (Political Notes, Sept. 12). Most of us knew that already. The biggest giveaway was that line about Hilleary’s opponent, Phil Bredesen, having a “large brain.” Satire indeed.
Less beer, fewer dishes
This is in response to Matt Pulle’s article regarding the smaller beer cups at Titans games (“This Tiny Bud’s For You,” Sept. 12). Look on the bright sideat least the new cups fit in the dishwasher. Personally, I was tired of washing them by hand. Go Titans!
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