DOT Innovation in Tennessee

This report was created as part of our DOT Innovation work in the state of Tennessee. Read more about the project ››

Transportation Process Alternatives for Tennessee: Removing barriers to smarter transportation investments

The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and Smart Growth America partnered to find ways in which TDOT can more effectively use its limited resources to create better outcomes. The working team executed a thorough, but fast-paced process that engaged Department staff and community stakeholders from across the state to help formulate a path to removing barriers to better investment. The following are the major findings:

  • TDOT currently has nine times more projects in its work plan than it has funding.
  • While TDOT has been diligent about bringing national best practices into the organization, it will be important that these become a systematic part of the way the Department does business going forward.
  • Most decisions that affect project outcomes are made in the first three phases of TDOT’s project development process.
  • TDOT is in the process of developing more rigorous metrics for the measurement of broad project benefits and better prioritization of projects. This process is important and should continue.
  • TDOT should audit the existing work program to eliminate projects that are no longer needed and right-size projects that can be improved.
  • TDOT should develop joint transportation/land use corridor studies that improve projects and identify beneficiaries who can bring more project dollars to the table. While local governments are solely responsible for local land use planning, it is important for TDOT to coordinate state transportation plans and projects with local land use planning agencies. This will more effectively leverage the taxpayers’ investments.
  • TDOT should apply its Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) approaches consistently throughout the planning and design process in order to maximize flexibility and tailor solutions to local needs.
  • TDOT should assemble multi-disciplinary project teams that follow a project through development from conception to design. The consistency and knowledge-base created by this approach will lessen the chances that good ideas “fall through the cracks.”
  • TDOT should make its external communications even more transparent so that any stakeholder or citizen can easily go online, find any capital or maintenance project in the program and understand its basic description, its reason for being prioritized, its current place in the development process, expected completion dates and ways to become engaged in the process.