Mayor Dean pushing for permanent fix to highway funding problem - WSMV News 4

Mayor Dean pushing for permanent fix to highway funding problem

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Just one year ago, if you were driving through some parts of Nashville, you could find yourself dodging falling blocks of concrete from the Interstate 40 bridge.

Union workers say this could be the end result if the roads and bridges aren't fixed soon.

"You need roads and bridges to be operative and for citizens to be safe but also for economies to work," said Mayor Karl Dean.

In order for it to work, there has to be funding, but the nation's Highway Trust Fund is expected to be empty by the end of the summer.

Union workers with the Laborers' International Union of North America joined with Dean to ask Congress to pass a long-term highway funding bill this year.

"It's better for the country, it's better for the long-term planning that if we have a fix, a real fix that lasts more than just this short-term patch," Dean said.

The Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee proposed short-term solutions to supply funding through May of next year and revisit the issue.

Sen. Bob Corker disagrees.

"People understand we cannot continue to do this. I think people on both sides of the aisle are embarrassed each year we get to this point where we are playing chicken," he said.

Instead, Corker wants to raise gas taxes and lower others. He considers it a more balanced approach to help replenish the fund long term.

"We need to put a gasoline tax in place or we just need to fund what's coming in," Corker said.

If nothing happens soon, federal cuts to state agencies will start Aug. 1.

"At stake is $856 million in transportation funds for our state. That is 34,000 jobs for Tennessee workers and hundreds of jobs here in Nashville," said Glenn Farner, southeast director of LUNA.

For Tennessee, 13 road-widening projects, totaling more than $200 million are being put on hold and TDOT says future projects are also being halted.

"It has an impact on our state, it has an impact on local governments, too," Dean said.

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