TDOT’s chief engineer says ‘real work begins now’

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – After years of talking to nearly every lawmaker across the state, the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s chief engineer Paul Degges says “the real work begins now.”

He spoke with News 2 Thursday morning from one of the ongoing projects along Nashville’s Interstate 24 just opposite downtown about the road ahead.

“We have to do the design activity and acquire the right of way for about 10 billion dollars of work,” Degges told News 2. “Right now in year one we have about a billion dollars in funding available to us.”

While the first project around Nashville is well-documented, bumpy I-440, people in the Tri-Cities, Knoxville, and Memphis areas eagerly await some work on their most congested highways.

(Photo: WKRN)

They include curvy S.R. 126 for the Tri-Cities, often congested Alcoa Highway by Knoxville’s airport and the widening of Lamar Avenue in the heart of Shelby County.

“Our goal is to get all that work out the door between now and Sept 2018,” added Degges.

While TDOT’s chief engineer is naturally at home on construction projects, he’s learned to navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of Tennessee’s Capitol Hill.

It includes knowing the economic impact of the massive IMPROVE Act in each part of the state.

“A dollar spent in the construction area will echo through the economy about five times,” he said of a line often repeated by lawmakers.

Each project around the state will be a bit different during construction says Degges. Some roads will be reduced to two lanes each way or totally shut down during weekends.

“One of the things the public has told us is ‘if you get in and get out, we’ll let you close it,” he said. So for a lot of locations we will do a total closure.”

By next year at this time, the sound of construction will be heard in 40 or Tennessee’s 95 counties during the initial phase of the IMPROVE Act.

By the time its over in more than a decade, Degges says every single one of the counties in the state will be touched.