Chattanooga, TN (WDEF) – State Senator Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga says he wants the state to stop using gas tax money to build bicycle lanes.
Gardenhire said, “We’ve got a $6.1 billion backlog of road projects and bridges that need to be done, we’ve got a $3.5 billion wish list that needs to be done, plus the upkeep in maintenance, and then we’re being asked next year to consider a gas tax increase then some of us felt like it behooves us to spend that money wisely.”
Gardenhire told News12 his definition of using state gasoline tax money wisely does not include building new bicycle lanes and paths in the state. He said, “While bike paths are nice, and there’s a lot of people that use them, and encouraged to use them, is that really a function of what the gas tax should go to if we’ve got that much need built up in the past?”
But the proposal created a political firestorm.
Matt Farr serves as executive director of Bike Walk Tennessee. He said, “We think this bill is a major step backwards for Tennesseans. 2015 was the deadliest year on record, deadliest year in 20 years, for bicyclists and pedestrians in the state of Tennessee.”
Bike Walk Tennessee launched an online petition to try to stop Gardenhire’s plan. Farr added, “It’s projects like sidewalks, bike lanes, green ways, multi use paths that create safe environments for bicyclists and pedestrians. De-funding these type of projects are dangerous, it’ll threaten the lives of thousands of Tennesseans across the state.”
But Gardenhire says he thinks it’s all just a misunderstanding. He said, “This does not prohibit any county or city from funding bike lanes. They can do that. So it doesn’t prohibit it at all. That should be a local decision with local money, not a state money.”
And critics say they can’t believe this proposal came from Scenic City politicians. Farr explained, “This flies in the face of everything Chattanooga represents, and we’re really disappointed to see it.”
The bill also has a separate stipulation preventing state money from being spent to widen roads for bicycle use if the speed limit is 35 miles per hour or greater.