I chose to live in Tennessee for my five years of college, so it became a special place to me. This news about the Tennessee Department of Transportation was a delightful surprise.

TDOT recently partnered with Smart Growth America to review the state’s transportation system. The report that ensued changed TDOT policy on easing road congestion. Rather than widening roads or constructing bypasses, as has been the default and unquestionable practice for decades, TDOT is now looking at context sensitive solutions and simpler cost-effective methods to accomplish traffic improvements.

A single highway running across the state may amble through rolling hillsides and suburban communities and may even be Main Street in downtown. It shouldn’t receive the same treatment through each of these. Thus, context sensitive solutions will promote appropriately designed streets for each of these environments. This can potentially revitalize downtown and spur economic growth and place-making.

Economically, there are ways to improve congestion that don’t require adding another lane of asphalt such as removing curb cuts or optimizing traffic light timing. We pour so much money into road infrastructure, and this will save the state millions of dollars.

The new policy requires a new set of performance metrics such as economic impact, job creation, cost saving potential, sustainability, and ease of implementation. And it should end the endless cycle of building wider and faster state roadways.