Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer spoke May 8 at Franklin Tomorrow’s FrankTalks. While unable to discuss specifics of his department’s three-year project plan since the Tennessee Legislature had not approved the 2017-18 fiscal year budget, Schroer did drill deep into the details of Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act and its ability to positively impact Tennessee and local roadway networks.

As former mayor of Franklin, Schroer remembers lobbying TDOT officials and the state’s governor for funding for the construction of Mack Hatcher Parkway’s northwest leg, which is reportedly on the three-year projects list. He said Franklin positioned itself to gain the road’s construction by funding more than $5 million in work to ensure it was “shovel ready.”

He also discussed the importance of widening the southeast legs of Mack Hatcher from Columbia Avenue to Highway 96 East and hinted at the design of a southwest leg which would complete the full loop of the road.

He shared the hour-long program with Diane Thorne, regional transportation director for The TMA Group, which is a regional leader in providing innovative, sustainable multi-modal transportation solutions for employers and communities, including the VanStar regional commuter vanpool program, the growing urban public Franklin Transit system, the Clean Air partnership, and Transportation Demand Management programs.

She said Tennessee’s roadway system is the best in the nation and while the framework of the transportation system is the roadway network, “It is not about how many cars you can move on the roadway system, but about how many people you can move on the roadway system.”

Franklin Mayor Ken Moore told the crowd funding has been secured for an I-65 corridor study to further investigate mass transit options, but he expressed the belief that even if a light-rail or bus-rapid transit system were in place to serve the region and corridor today, it would not be successful due to a lack of use by drivers who prefer their vehicles.

Schroer has become a Southeastern and national leader in transportation policy and also discussed the rise of autonomous vehicles, asserting his belief that whether citizens are ready for them or not, they are the wave and way of the future.

“My grandson, who is 4 years old, will never drive a car,” Schroer said, adding unless it were for recreational purposes, but instead would utilize an autonomous vehicle.

FrankTalks is held the second Monday of every month and Vanderbilt University’s Office of Community, Neighborhood and Government Relations has partnered with Franklin Tomorrow to present the series.

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