NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A state intergovernmental report shows Tennessee has $62 billion in infrastructure needs. That’s up $3.3 billion dollars from last year – the needs range from water and sewer, law enforcement, public buildings, roads, bridges, and more.
There’s no way lawmakers can fix the state’s infrastructure today, or even in a year or two — the cost alone is $19 billion more than Tennessee’s entire state budget— but lawmakers say real investments should be on the table.
The Tennessee Advisory Commission on intergovernmental relations outlined infrastructure needs suited for Tennessee on Capitol Hill this week.
“I just like to remind people that infrastructure is also about growth and prosperity, a lot of the projects that are in the public infrastructure inventory are related to economic development wins,” Cliff Lippard
Executive Director TACIR said.
The Volunteer State has a $62 billion infrastructure balance to address needs from transportation to broadband. “You can’t do a Blue Oval, Amazon distribution center, or a Nashville Yards, or a Volkswagen expansion without infrastructure supporting it,” Lippard said.
Infrastructure must be built with resiliency Senator Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) said to fit all communities. “People in small towns and big cities, from one end of the state to the other, and those people know that our infrastructure needs updating needs modernization and like we have real needs across communities.”
According to the report, the categories most responsible for the reported increase in total estimated cost are transportation and utilities, and education.
Yarbro, who sat before the presentation, added investments now are critical. “I think the state has a real opportunity this year to make a massive investment in infrastructure — we’re seeing through what President Biden has passed in the infrastructure bill, as well as some of the other federal dollars, there is between $8 and $14 billion that is available to actually make investments right now.”
What must be top of lawmakers’ minds as they see an influx of federal support is the opportunity to build with current and future challenges in mind.
“It’s so important right now to actually build with resiliency – If you think back to the floods that we had in Waverly, some of the wildfires that we’ve had and flooding in other areas of the state, even folks that don’t believe in climate change know that the weather is different every week right now and it’s causing real damage to their lives and we’ve got to build our infrastructure to deal with that,” Yarbro said.
In a separate report last year from TACIR, from 1996 until 2035 — it is estimated natural disasters will cost $938 million (not adjusted for inflation).
“Infrastructure is never complete right, but you can get to a place where you’re not so tragically behind and you can get to a place where you’re making the types of investments that make people’s lives better and in the long run save communities significant money,” Yarbro added.
This is the 6th consecutive year public infrastructure needs have increased.
Tennessee will receive more than $7 billion from President Biden’s infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.