Memphis officials say TDOT shortchanging city on interstate mowing

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The city of Memphis is still campaigning for TDOT to cut and clean the grass and growth around interstates, and now we have the numbers behind the poor conditions.

One region of the state gets nearly double the mowing budget of everyone else, and it’s left city officials feeling frustrated.

It doesn’t take a lot of driving around Memphis before you see a grassy area near the interstate that looks neglected.

“It looks like a grass jungle on steroids,” Memphis City Council chairman Kemp Conrad said. “It’s contributing to the blight of our city. The city of Memphis looks really hard to keep our city clean and tidy.”

Last year, the Tennessee Department of Transportation took over mowing duties for state routes and interstates inside Memphis.

Council member Frank Colvett said the state owes it to Memphis citizens to get the grass cut or contract with the city to get it done.

“At the end of the day, people want to come home, drive the streets, and not see grass that’s taller than their car,” Colvett said.

What started with a tweet last week from Conrad has been something we’ve been looking into for months.

Back on May 21, WREG requested the TDOT mowing budget for the last five years, and the numbers were shocking.

The state is divided into four regions, and Region 3 — home to Nashville – gets nearly double the amount as the other three.

“It makes sense to me that everyone should be different. But if they’re treating three the same, and one is getting extra treatment, that would not be right,” Conrad said.

We reached out to TDOT for an explanation about why Region 3 gets nearly $4.5 million in mowing money, while Region 4 — where Memphis sits — gets barely $2.9 million, despite being a larger area.

A TDOT spokesperson said the state actually spends more money mowing in Shelby County than in Davidson County due to a higher amount of acreage here. The costs in Region 3 have been going up due to “contractor competition” and “higher costs to do business.”

Memphis officials say the city works hard to keep the Bluff City beautiful, and they want TDOT to hold up its end of the bargain.

“With this landlord registry, bringing these people to court, getting this grass cut, under the same rules, I would be citing TDOT,” Colvett said. “That’s not fair to the people, that’s not fair to Memphis.”

City officials encourage Memphians to reach out to TDOT if you see an area of the interstate that needs to be mowed or trimmed.

“We just want it done quickly right now,” Conrad said. “If they can’t do it, they can contract with the city. We know how to execute the basics, we’ll get it done.”


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