Former TDOT Commissioner John Schroer shares some of his experiences while Matt Largen of Williamson Inc. looks on Friday morning at First Friday. // Photo by John McBryde
By JOHN McBRYDE
Now that John Schroer is no longer leader of the Tennessee Department of Transportation, he can perhaps be a little more candid with his thoughts on traffic.
That was his style Friday morning as guest speaker for the Williamson, Inc. First Friday session at the E-Spaces office in Cool Springs. The monthly event is geared toward business leaders, small-business owners and others in business. Schroer shared some thoughts on his reign as TDOT commissioner for both terms of Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration.
And when a member of the audience asked how to get three additional lanes on Interstate 65 going north and three more lanes going south, Schroer abruptly answered, “You don’t.”
He went on to explain why widening the interstates or other roadways is not going to end traffic jams. And for that matter, he also put something of a kibosh on the idea of a rail system.
“Asphalt will not get us out of congestion,” Schroer said. “That’s not the solution. And rail is not the solution. A lot of people think that’s the answer. It’s not. Technology is the answer. Technology will solve our issues with regards to congestion. It will take a little while, it will be gradual, but that’s what it’s going to take.”
Schroer, who served as mayor of Franklin before taking the position with TDOT, pointed out some facts and figures to support his insistence that technology leads the way on transportation.
“Technology will cost $100 million and can get done in four or five years,” he explained. “A new lane from Murfreesboro on both sides to Nashville will cost $800 million and would take about 10-15 years to get done. A rail – light rail or commercial rail — would cost about $3 billion and would probably take about 20-25 years to get accomplished.”
Ironically, perhaps, one of Schroer’s last acts as TDOT commissioner was to join other officials in breaking ground last January for the asphalt going down on the Mack Hatcher Northwest Quadrant that will connect Hillsboro Road to Highway 96 West.
The $45 million project, which is well under way, includes a new two-lane roadway from Hillsboro Road to Highway 96 on the west side of Franklin with a 12-foot wide multi-use path and half-mile long bridge that spans the bend in the Harpeth River around Brownland Farm.
Schroer said at the time that it was fitting that his final groundbreaking should happen in his hometown, but on Friday he said the Mack Hatcher extension wasn’t among his most important projects.
“You have to remember, I ran the whole state,” Schroer told the Franklin Home Page after the event had ended. “I was at a hearing in Westhaven and they were all [complaining] about that road and why weren’t we building it, and I said, ‘You know, no one has ever died going from Westhaven to Five Points on 96. I’ve got roads across this state where people are dying. I need to fix those first.’ ”