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U.S. Transportation Secretary Visits Local Officials To Discuss Memphis’ Proposed $265.5 Million Lamar Avenue Project

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Nation’s Impending Funding Shortfalls Put Key Highway Projects in Doubt

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was joined by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton today at the Memphis Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to discuss the proposed Lamar Avenue project, designed to improve safety and reduce traffic congestion by widening SR 4/US 78, may not be completed for several years due to inadequate federal funding for Tennessee and other states. The Secretary’s visit is part of a multi-state tour highlighting the importance of investing in America’s infrastructure and to encourage Congress to act on a long-term transportation bill.

“The Memphis area is one of the most important commuter and freight routes – and stretches of it have had high crash rates,” said Secretary Foxx. “A serious, long-term funding plan is necessary to keep Tennessee’s highways both safe and competitive, which is why Congress should act now.”

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration announced a plan to address the infrastructure deficit with a $478 billion, six-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal – the GROW AMERICA Act. The plan makes critical investments in infrastructure needed to promote long-term economic growth, enhance safety and efficiency, and support jobs for the 21st century.  

Under the GROW AMERICA Act, Tennessee would receive $1.1 billion for highway and transit projects. As part of transitioning to a reformed business tax system that will encourage firms to create U.S. jobs instead of shifting jobs and profits overseas, the GROW AMERICA Act would impose a one-time 14 percent transition tax on the up to $2 trillion of untaxed foreign earnings that U.S. companies have accumulated overseas. Revenue from this proposal – along with projected fuel tax receipts – will pay for the plan.

In addition, U.S. DOT released a landmark study earlier this year, titled “Beyond Traffic,” that looked at the trends and choices facing American transportation over the next three decades. These included a rapidly growing population, demographic and migratory shifts in rural and urban areas, increasing freight volume, innovations to enhance safety and efficiency, and a transportation system that’s facing more frequent extreme weather events. A key takeaway of the study is that more investment in transportation is needed for the sake of future generations, and the proposals included in GROW AMERICA support that goal.

"If more federal funds were available, Memphis’ Lamar Avenue project would improve safety for the thousands of drivers who use the route each day," said Acting Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau. "This is the kind of project that communities nationwide need more of, and which we hope Congress will help."

According to state estimates, the Lamar Avenue project – though currently unfunded – will cost $262.5 million. Once completed, it will improve safety and reduce traffic congestion on one of western Tennessee’s biggest commuter and freight corridors.

 “With BNSF’s massive intermodal facility, numerous major warehouse distribution centers and office complexes that are accessed via US 78, it is a major commercial corridor for our City and the region,” said Mayor Wharton. “The freight truck and commuter traffic is enormous and puts a serious strain on infrastructure. US 78 is in dire need of significant improvements that can only be accomplished with the aid of federal dollars. For the sake of safety and continued economic growth and development in the region, we need Congress to pass the President's GROW AMERICA Act and get the money flowing to upgrade this major commercial artery as soon as possible.”

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FHWA 34-15