City Council Looks to Implement Transportation Utility Fee

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The Memphis City Council is looking to implement a transportation utility fee to fund roadway and transit projects.


Councilman Edmund Ford Jr. said the fee would be used to fund roadway improvement projects, such repairing curb and gutters, as well as support the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA)’s new transit plan.


“I think it’s time for us to look at ways that we can garner enough funds that we don’t rely so much on property taxes,” Ford said. “I know we’re not in the phase of putting the ordinance together, but I think the discussion is important if we’re serious about funding MATA, as well as making sure public works has what it needs.”


The fee would be tacked on to Memphis Light, Gas and Water bills and would be similar to the stormwater fee, Wayne Gaskin, former city of Memphis engineer told the council. The residential and non-residential rates would be based on the amount of trips a property generates and could range from $4.75 to $15. Gaskin said the fee could generate more than $30 million in revenue each year.


This revenue will be used to offset the costs of road projects and create a dedicated source of funding for MATA, Ford said.


Last month, Robert Knecht, director of Public Works, told the council that the city doesn’t have dedicated funding for street improvement projects, such as fixing sidewalks. With more funding, other improvements such as switching to LED traffic signals could take place. To implement all of the roadway improvements currently needed citywide, Knecht said it would cost $60 to $80 million.


To upkeep sidewalks only, it would cost an additional $19 million a year.


The city is currently on an approximate 25-year street paving cycle, Knecht said. This means on average all 8,816 lane miles of street will get re-surfaced at least once every 25 years. Knecht proposes a 20-year cycle, which would cost another $8 million a year. A 10-year cycle hikes the cost up by another $50 million.


Ford plans to draft a resolution for the transportation fee and present it to the council in two weeks.


“I think it’s a true example of finding a way to be creative, while making sure that people are paying their fair share,” Ford said. “About 310,000 cars come through the city of Memphis every single day.”


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