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Crumbling Tennessee Infrastructure could benefit from $555 million wasted on GON

October 25, 2012

A new report from Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations shows the state’s basic infrastructure is crumbling. Roads, bridges, sewer lines, schools – all are in dire need of repair. Specifically, the Commission identified $38 billion in infrastructure improvement needs: $19.1 billion for transportation; nearly $8 billion for schools; $7.3 billion for health and safety; and about $3.5 billion for other needs, including economic development. The cost of the needed improvements grew 3.3 percent from the year before.

The Commission says Tennessee does not have the funds to fulfill most of the needs. According to the report, “Information about the availability of funding to meet Tennessee’s public infrastructure needs indicates that 62% of the funding needed is not yet available.”

Hamilton County is among the top 10 counties in Tennessee with the highest number of schools that are in “fair” or “poor” condition. The Commission estimates it would cost $20 million to renovate or repair these facilities.

While schools in Hamilton County languish, we remind readers Chattanooga – the seat of Hamilton County – has spent nearly $555 million on a government-owned high-speed broadband network that has failed to live up to its promise to provide one gigabit service at a cost affordable to Chattanooga residents or small businesses.

City and county officials from around Tennessee said the Commission’s report served an important purpose: it gave lawmakers and citizens alike a better understanding of where the state government and municipal governments should focus their scarce tax dollars. They are right, and it’s clear from the report government-operated broadband is not one.

Broadband is a cornerstone to any community’s economic development plans, but education, roads and bridges are as well. The private sector is better equipped to provide broadband; Chattanooga and Hamilton County should focus its taxpayer dollars on fulfilling these other needs – just as vital, but the also the proper domain of government.