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Challenge grants could improve infrastructure

Staff Report • Dec 17, 2012 at 8:57 AM

Local municipal leaders will again be asking the state General Assembly to create “challenge grants” to allow smaller cities to jump start vital road construction projects. It is a reasonable request because infrastructure — such as improved roads — is an important driver of economic development.

It just makes good sense that Johnson City be allowed to put highway projects it thinks are key on a fast track.

Under the proposed challenge grant program, local cities and towns could accelerate state road projects by promising to cover a share of the cost. The state’s largest cities — Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville — often gobble up huge chunks of Tennessee Department of Transportation funding on single projects, leaving nothing but crumbs for other areas of the state.

Stretching those state highway dollars would free up money to address important projects in our area, such as the reconstruction of the Interstate 81 and Interstate 26 interchange.

Contributing local tax dollars to these projects through challenge grants would help stretch precious state highway dollars and keep important infrastructure projects in the Tri-Cities on schedule.

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