Tennessee Department of Transportation

The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) is a multimodal agency with statewide responsibilities in roadways, aviation, public transit, waterways, and railroads. The mission of TDOT is to provide a safe and reliable transportation system for people, goods, and services that supports economic prosperity in Tennessee.

Tennessee Department of Transportation
Agency overview
JurisdictionState of Tennessee
HeadquartersJames K. Polk State Office Building
Nashville, Tennessee 37243
EmployeesApproximately 5,000
Annual budget10,000,000 per year
Agency executive
  • John Schroer, Commissioner

Major responsibilities

The major duties and responsibilities of TDOT are to:

  • plan, build, and maintain the state-owned highway and Interstate system of over 14,000 miles (23,000 km);
  • administer funding and provide technical assistance in the planning and construction of state and federal aid road programs for cities and counties;
  • provide incident management on Tennessee's Interstate system through TDOT SmartWay, an intelligent transportation network of cameras and dynamic message signs;
  • staff transportation management centers in the four largest urban cities in Tennessee;
  • provide motorist information;
  • construct and maintain 19 rest area facilities and 17 welcome centers;
  • administer program for control of outdoor advertising adjacent to Interstate and state highways;
  • issue and administer special permits for movement of overweight and over-dimensional vehicles;
  • prepare and distribute city, county, and state road maps, aeronautical charts, and airport directories;
  • promote safe driving behaviors on highways;
  • provide management, technical and financial assistance, and supervision to public, private, and nonprofit public transportation agencies in the state
  • administer funding and assistance in location, design, construction, and maintenance of the state's 80 public airports;
  • support improvements in Tennessee's railroads and rail service;
  • inspect over 19,000 bridges, 80 public airports, and all of the state's railroads;
  • maintain state park roads;
  • operate Reelfoot Airpark and ferry operations;
  • respond to initiatives of the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission;
  • provide aerial photography and mapping services to all state agencies;
  • provide aircraft for state executive transportation and economic development recruiting;
  • administer highway beautification programs;
  • provide grants to all Tennessee counties for litter abatement and litter prevention education; and
  • provide cycling trails that connect or go through state parks and natural areas.


Prior to 1915, the state had no central authority governing construction and maintenance of roads. The governor, legislature, other road associations, and local governments all attempted to serve these tasks, leading to a lack of planning and management. In 1915, a State Highway Commission was created to organize transportation services. The original commission consisted of six volunteer members. As responsibilities of the commission grew, this became inadequate, and in 1919 the commission was replaced with three paid members. By 1922, roads in Tennessee were behind surrounding states. Governor Austin Peay created a new Department of Highways and Public Works and appointed J.G. Creveling, Jr. as the single commissioner. Peavy also implemented a tax of two cents per gallon to fund the new department. The collapse of the banking system in 1930 resulted in significant losses for the state and led to an inability to fund the department. All of its workers had to be released. However, in 1933 the New Deal projects gave $11 million of federal money for highway projects. Diversion of federal funds and military enlistment of personnel during World War II again crippled the department. Following the war, the construction of the new Interstate Highway system brought a massive boom to the department. In 1972, due to its expanding role in all modes of transportation, it was renamed the Tennessee Department of Transportation. In the 1980s, TDOT began the $3.3 billion Better Roads Program to clear a backlog of projects and improve aging roads. In 1989, the gas tax was set at 21.40 cents per gallon to help fund this project. Through the 1990s and early 2000s, the department began working on ways to improve efficiency and involve communities.[1]


TDOT is headed by a single commissioner who is appointed by the governor. The leadership level also includes the Deputy Commissioner, and leaders for legal, aeronautics, community relations, and legislation. Three bureaus exist under this level. Most administrative offices operate from the TDOT headquarters in downtown Nashville, the state's capital city. There are also four regional offices across the state. Each region is further divided into districts which are then subdivided into county facilities.[2]

The following table lists the regions, district offices, maintenance and construction offices for each region, and counties served.

TDOT Regions with their Constituent Districts[3]
Region District District Office Maintenance Offices Construction Offices Counties
1 (Knoxville) 17 Johnson City Johnson City, Morristown Johnson City, Morristown, Elizabethton Carter, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi, Washington
18 Knoxville Knoxville, Newport Knoxville(2), Newport Anderson, Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson, Knox, Sevier, Union
19 Harriman Harriman, LaFollette Harriman, LaFollette, Maryville Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Loudon, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, Scott
2 (Chattanooga) 27 Cookeville Cookeville, Crossville Cookeville, Crossville, Livingston Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, White
28 Tullahoma Tullahoma, Dunlap Tullahoma, Dunlap, McMinnville Bledsoe, Cannon, Coffee, Franklin, Grundy, Marion, Sequatchie, Van Buren, Warren
29 Chattanooga Chattanooga, Benton Chattanooga(2), Cleveland Bradley, Hamilton, McMinn, Meigs, Polk, Rhea
3 (Nashville) 37 Nashville Nashville, Gallatin Nashville(2), Gallatin Davidson, Macon, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale, Wilson, Williamson
38 McEwen McEwen, Clarksville McEwen, Clarksville, Columbia Cheatham, Dickson, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Maury, Montgomery, Robertson, Stewart
39 Belfast Belfast, Lawrenceburg Belfast, Lawrenceburg, Murfreesboro Bedford, Giles, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Marshall, Moore, Perry, Rutherford, Wayne
4 (Jackson) 47 McKenzie McKenzie, Newbern McKenzie, Newbern, Trenton Benton, Carroll, Decatur, Dyer, Gibson, Henry, Lake, Obion, Weakley
48 Jackson Jackson, Bethel Springs Jackson, Bethel Springs, Brownsville Chester, Crockett, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Madison, McNairy
49 Arlington Arlington(2) Memphis(2), Covington Fayette, Lauderdale, Tipton, Shelby

Bureau of Administration

This bureau serves the administrative tasks of the department. It is further divided into the following divisions:[4]

  • Division of Central Services
  • Division of Finance
  • Division of Internal Audit
  • Division of Human Resources
  • Division of Strategic Planning
  • Division of Information Technology

Bureau of Environment and Planning

This bureau studies environmental effects and ensures compliance with environmental policy. It also collects and analyses data to develop long range project and safety plans. It contains the following divisions:[5]

  • Environmental Division
  • Long Range Planning Division
  • Freight and Logistics Division

Bureau of Engineering

This bureau designs, constructs, and maintains the state's highway system. This Bureau is directed by the Chief Engineer. The majority of the bureau is split into two categories: Design and Operations, with each overseen by an Assistant Chief Engineer.

The Assistant Chief Engineer of Design oversees the following divisions:[6]

  • Roadway Design Division
  • Right of Way Division
  • Structures Division

The Assistant Chief Engineer of Operations is responsible for overseeing the four regional offices. They also oversee the following divisions:[7]

  • Traffic Operations Division
  • Materials and Tests Division
  • Construction Division
  • Maintenance Division

Additionally there are three independent divisions that report directly to the Chief Engineer:[8]

  • Bid Analysis and Estimating Office
  • Program Administration and Development Division
  • Strategic Transport Investments Division

Transportation System

TDOT reports the following as Tennessee's transportation system:[9]

Highway system

  • Bridges: 19,500, including 8,150 state owned bridges and 11,419 locally owned bridges
  • Interstates: 1,104 miles (1,777 km)
  • 19 Interstate rest areas
  • 17 Interstate and U.S. Route welcome centers
  • 9 truck weigh stations
  • State highways, 13,884 miles (22,344 km)
  • Total highways, 93,523 miles (150,511 km)

Airport system

  • 74 general aviation
  • 5 commercial
  • 142 heliports

Rail system

  • 18 shortline railroads on 842 miles (1,355 km) of rail
  • 6 major rail lines on 2,098 miles (3,376 km) of rail

Transit system

  • 28 transit systems serving all 95 counties


  • 946 miles (1,522 km) of main channel navigable waterways
  • 2 ferries

Bicycle and pedestrian system

  • 231 miles (372 km) of greenways, sidewalks, and trails
  • 9 bicycle trails on 1,500 miles (2,400 km) including a single across state trail totaling 500 miles (800 km)
  • 4,497 miles (7,237 km) of greenways, sidewalks, and trails


Funding for the state transportation system in Tennessee comes from a fund that is separate from the state's general fund which operates most of the other state agencies in Tennessee. Transportation revenues come from both federal transportation monies and from state funding resources. Those state funds come from a combination of dollars collected from gas and diesel tax revenues, titling and registration fees. Tennessee operates on a "pay as you go" system by using available revenues resulting in no debt service. Tennessee is one of three states in the nation that does not finance transportation through bonding. As a result, many of Tennessee's interstate highways have not been widened to sustain traffic capacity, and TDOT has been criticized for this reason.[10]


In October 2016, TDOT removed the Lindsay X-LITE guardrail endcap from its list of approved devices due to concerns over safety when the device was hit at high speeds. A month later, a driver was killed in a collision with one such barrier. The victim's family subsequently received a $3,000 bill from TDOT for damage caused to the guardrail. TDOT later apologized for the bill and called it a processing error. Outrage remained that TDOT was not working to remove a device they knew to be unsafe. In response, TDOT began bidding for a contract to remove X-LITE endcaps from roads with a speed limit higher than 45 miles per hour. At least three other deaths within a 15-month period were also caused by this type of device.[11]

Leadership History

The leaders of the department and its preceding organizations have been:[12]

Six-commissioner structure, 1915–1919

Ex-officio members: Tom C. Rye, Governor; A.H. Purdue, State Geologist; Charles, E. Ferris, Dean of Engineering, University of Tennessee Appointed: Authur Crownover, Charles W. Williams, William H. Crox (succeeded by C. F. Milburn)

Three-commissioner structure, 1919–1923

W.P. Moore, W.W. House, W.T. Testerman

Single-commissioner structure, 1923–present

  • J.G. Creveling, Jr., January 1923 – October 21, 1925
  • C.N. Bass, October 21, 1925 – February 16, 1928
  • Harry S. Berry, February 16, 1928 – February 27, 1929
  • R. H. Baker, February 27, 1929 – January 17, 1933
  • F.W. Webster, January 17, 1933 – December 11, 1934
  • H.S. Walters, December 11, 1934 – September 20, 1935
  • Briggs Smith, September 20, 1935 – January 18, 1937
  • M.O. Allen, January 18, 1937 – January 11, 1939
  • C.W. Phillips, January 11, 1939 – January 16, 1949
  • E.W. Eggleston, January 16, 1949 – August 10, 1950
  • Charles Wayland, August 10, 1950 – September 1, 1951
  • C.W. Bond, September 1, 1951 – September 18, 1952
  • Herbert A. McKee, September 18, 1952 – January 15, 1953
  • W.M Leech, January 15, 1953 – November 15, 1958
  • Herbert M. Bates, November 15, 1958 – January 19, 1959
  • D.W. Moulton, January 19, 1959 – January 15, 1963
  • David M. Pack, January 15, 1963 – January 16, 1967
  • E.W. Speight, January 16, 1967 – January 16, 1971
  • Robert F. Smith, January 16, 1971 – January 18, 1975
  • Eddie L. Shaw, January 18, 1975 – January 20, 1979
  • William B. Sansom, January 20, 1979 – June 30, 1981
  • Robert E. Farris, July 1, 1981 – October 31, 1985
  • Dale R. Kelley, November 1, 1985 – January 17, 1987
  • Jimmy M. Evans, January 17, 1987 December 7, 1992
  • Carl Johnson, December 28, 1992 – October 21, 1994
  • Carl Wood (acting), October 21, 1994 – January 21, 1995
  • J. Bruce Saltsman, January 21, 1995 – January 18, 2003
  • Gerald F. Nicely, January 18, 2003 – January 15, 2011
  • John Schroer, January 15, 2011 – January 16, 2019
  • Clay Bright, January 16, 2019 – present


  1. "Brief History of TDOT" (PDF). Tennessee Department of Transportation. State of Tennessee. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  2. "Organizational Chart" (PDF). Tennessee Department of Transportation. State of Tennessee. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  3. "Find Local Information". Tennessee Department of Transportation. State of Tennessee. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  4. "Chief of Bureau of Administration". Tennessee Department of Transportation. State of Tennessee. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  5. "Chief of Bureau of Environment and Planning". Tennessee Department of Transportation. State of Tennessee. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  6. "Assistant Chief Engineer of Design". Tennessee Department of Transportation. State of Tennessee. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  7. "Assistant Chief Engineer of Operations". Tennessee Department of Transportation. State of Tennessee. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  8. "Chief of Bureau of Engineering". Tennessee Department of Transportation. State of Tennessee. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  9. "Transportation System Overview". Tennessee Department of Transportation. State of Tennessee. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  10. "Funding Tennessee's Transportation". Tennessee Department of Transportation. State of Tennessee. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  11. Crowe, Michael (March 28, 2017). "At Least 4 Killed in Crashes Involving Controversial Guard Rail Terminal". WBIR-TV. 10news. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  12. "TDOT Commissioner History". Tennessee Department of Transportation. State of Tennessee. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
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