State Rep. Mike Sparks Commentary: In Order to Fix Nashville’s Traffic Problems, We Must First Study the Traffic Before We Raise Taxes


by State Representative Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna)


ON I-24 SOMEWHERE NORTH OF SMYRNA, Tennessee — Interstate 24 from Rutherford County to Nashville, which goes through my district, might be consistently the most congested stretch of highway in Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation. With the exponential growth of middle Tennessee, drivers face increased traffic congestion daily. While stuck in traffic many of us who commute to Nashville are asking ourselves the same question: What else can be done to help alleviate our traffic problems?

Our government and our leaders need to learn to do more with less without increasing taxes.

We should continue to pursue options such as encouraging ride-sharing, alternative work schedules, and an improved BRT Bus Rapid Transit system, HOV lane enforcement as a few options to reduce traffic. At the age of 19, I was working at Whirlpool factory in LaVergne, and I would pay a coworker $5 each week to carpool.

As I drive from my home district to Nashville, I have watched how bad the traffic congestion is getting. I have continuously promoted ride-sharing, which has encouraged my staff to carpool, many of whom are using the new mobile app Hytch Rewards, to carpool to the busy city of Nashville.

As lawmakers, we are here to serve the public and seek good policy in a cost effective manner. My resolution, HJR 0726, urges government officials and transit authorities to make efforts to study highway efficiency and to work in public-private partnerships before increasing taxes as a means of addressing heavy traffic congestion, to do and explore everything in its capacity to manage traffic problems. It will also seek private sector assistance. There are private sector services out there, like Uber, Lyft, Hytch Rewards, and even Amazon with its efficient delivery systems, stepping up in different ways to fill the lack of leadership and drought of direction in addressing congestion.

Companies like these are great examples of how, with certain issues, the private sector gets it right while the government often gets it wrong. These companies are looking for and successfully finding solutions. The state should support and learn from the private sector. Unfortunately, we still have much to improve on.

We can look to the private sector for innovative solutions. However, we can take a look at the tools we have now, and see they are not effective. Tennessee has a law in place making it illegal during a few hours at the busiest times of the day, to drive alone in the carpool, or HOV lane. TDOT estimates that up to 90 percent of drivers in the HOV lane during restricted hours are violating state law.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol issued an all-time low of 162 tickets in 2016 statewide for violating our HOV laws. There are 147 miles of highway with HOV lane. 121 of those HOV miles are in the Middle Tennessee area, where traffic continues to worsen. Arizona has 190 miles of HOV lanes and issued 7,364 citations in 2015. Virginia, with 113 HOV miles, had more than 100 times the citations than Tennessee, with 18,194 in 2013, the most recently available number. In Dallas, alone, 5,369 HOV citations were issued in 2016. Furthermore, a fellow legislator has a bill that increases HOV fines, which is $50, the lowest allowed by Federal law.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, III, gave me his opinion that HOV violation should be treated as a moving violation. This would significantly strengthen enforcement. House Speaker, Representative Beth Harwell, 56th District, also understands the issues surrounding our existing HOV laws. In 2008, Harwell pioneered a change in HOV laws that made exceptions for drivers of low emission vehicles. She has lead on this issue, and she understands the importance of taking action.

Davidson County may decide to spend billions of dollars on building a mass transit system in a few months, which would require a tax increase. Rutherford County will likely be next in line to build an expensive transit system, which again would require another tax increase.

Let’s explore, learn, be creative, and do everything we can to leverage the private sector, thus getting things right in the public sector.We are all tired of being stuck in I-24 traffic, together let’s do something.

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Mike Sparks serves the 49th Tennessee House District. Mike can be reached at or 615-741-6829

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7 thoughts on “State Rep. Mike Sparks Commentary: In Order to Fix Nashville’s Traffic Problems, We Must First Study the Traffic Before We Raise Taxes

  1. lb

    Wow, you get outside “progressive” Nashville and there are actually SMART, reasonable, common sense politicians–what a concept

  2. Wolf Woman

    State Rep Mike Sparks has too much common sense. What’s he doing in government?

  3. James Born

    How about just moving the jobs out where the workers live?

  4. 83ragtop50

    Shame on you for attempting to determine facts before saddling the public with an idiotic and ultra expensive transit “plan”. The slugs that run Nashville are just smarter than we peons that will have to pay for a gross failure.

  5. Kevin

    Representative Sparks raises some excellent points! I bet if a true investigation were conducted, that the problem in it’s entirety would reside with failures within Government. Like how and why did Bridgestone relocate from out by Opry Mills to downtown? Were tax credits or government hand-outs involved? Surely it didn’t improve traffic. Why is there not a true northern I-840 by-pass loop around Nashville? The Route 109 improvements are a far cry from a true limited access by-pass loop. Why are so many State of TN Administrative departments (and there thousands of state employees) still in Nashville? Can’t they be moved to some of our rural “distressed” counties?

    The fact is, Government has no competition, and therefore has no real driving force to think and work efficiently! Instead, we’re told we need more Government in the form of a Government designed, and operated transit system. Kudos to Rep. Sparks for thinking outside the box!

  6. ML

    And what happens when you force all those in the HOV lane into the other three lanes? Those three will come to a complete standstill and make traffic worse considering probably 90% of cars during rush hour only have one person in the car. Do away with the HOV lanes. They make no sense in TN and enforcing them makes even less sense. Do better.

    1. 83ragtop50

      I have read studies that clearly reveal that setting aside existing lanes for HOV usage actually decreases the number of vehicles that can traverse that stretch of road. Of course HOV lanes are a visual ploy to fool the clueless into believing that the elected officials are taking corrective action. Next step is for a toll road authority to grab land and increase taxes at the expense of other highway construction and maintenance. Just take a look at Tulsa, Oklahoma or Houston, Texas as prime examples.