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2 Tennessee Democrats ask for local approval of new toll lanes

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(The Center Square) – A pair of Tennessee Democrats are asking for the state to give local governments the opportunity to approve toll lanes that run through their jurisdictions.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is preparing to announce details on its plan to spend $3.3 billion on roads in the state along with the process to approve toll roads this month after the Legislature approve funding and an outline of the plan during last year’s session.

But House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Ray Clemmons and State Sen. Heidi Campbell, both of Nashville, have filed legislation for January’s session that would require the approval of local governments for those toll lanes to be built.

“Perhaps one of the more shocking parts of Governor Bill Lee’s transportation privatization law was how he paved the way for the privatization of state roadways in all 95 counties with no local input,” Clemmons said in a statement. “Most Tennessee families would be shocked to learn that Gov. Lee and the GOP supermajority gave unelected political appointees full discretion to decide whether a private company can charge them a toll to drive on the most heavily used roadways in their town.”

TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley said during last month’s budget meetings with Lee that his department would be releasing its detailed plan in December with hopes of having the first toll lane projects approved by November 2026.

“It’s incredibly troubling to think that a few handpicked, unqualified political appointees in a Nashville boardroom have the power to decide to build a toll lane in any community on any state roadway in Tennessee without any local input,” Campbell said in a statement, “I’m willing to bet that there are many communities across this state that don’t want a toll lane in their town, and their locally elected officials should have a vote on the matter to carry out their constituents’ wishes.”

The pair said that House Bill 1612 would require a local government’s governing body to formally approve any proposed toll lane project on a new or existing state roadway within its jurisdiction.

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