Many journalists, investigative reporters and concerned taxpayers have written about the Clement Landport. In 1995, former U.S. Congressman Bob Clement secured approximately $3.6 million for the landport, which was to serve as a transfer point for vanpools, airport and hotel shuttles and commuters.
Today, most reports that describe the landport incorporate a repetitive array of words and phrases such as waste of money, ill-timed, misguided and pork barrel project. In recent years, these descriptions seem to be well justified, considering that this taxpayer-funded lot remains vacant.
A look into the landport’s mismanaged history provides potential reason for its lack of success.
During the time of its construction in 1997, the landport’s contractor reported that chunks of concrete were falling from the Demonbreun Street Bridge. Transportation officials studied the bridge and found problems with its infrastructure, noting that the complete restructuring of the bridge would cost millions. However, the bridge’s serious structural problems were left unsolved, and in 1998 the Clement Landport officially opened.
It wasn’t until 2002 that the state determined the Demonbreun Street Bridge to be unsafe for bus traffic, halting landport operations. In 2004, the bridge was demolished and rebuilt. Interestingly enough, after the demolition of the Demonbreun Street Bridge, 15 buses had to be rerouted, and the landport was effectively rendered obsolete for a period of time.
If structural deficiencies in the Demonbreun Street Bridge were noticed in 1997, why not fix the problem then rather than take potential business away from the landport years later when the bridge was demolished? After all, the bridge is connected directly to the landport, and serves as the only way for buses to access it.
Currently, transportation officials cite the landport as being ahead of its time, and an excellent “investment in the future.” With this thought in mind, one questions the logic behind the construction of the landport way back in 1995. If the landport was built to facilitate the use of various forms of transportation, there must be many forms of transportation readily available at the landport. A few buses and a parking lot certainly do not suffice. The landport was built next to railroad lines, yet there are no trains to transport passengers to and from it!
So, why couldn’t the landport’s construction wait until a well-defined commuter rail system had been developed? Fundamentally, the landport’s current failure serves as yet another reason that transportation officials’ “build it and they will come” attitude is severely flawed. The costly landport should have been built in response to evident consumer demand for such a project, rather than as a way to create demand and bring business to transportation services that weren’t available at the time of its construction.
Today, the vacant parking lot that was supposed to serve as a central hub for regional transportation has aged, and recent estimates have shown that if the landport is to be fully utilized in the future, its upkeep and renovation will cost the city millions of dollars.
Transportation officials and politicians need to consider the burden of such projects on taxpayers before deciding upon any further “investments in the future” built on false promises instead of consumer demand.
Daniel Robbins is a policy intern at the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization dedicated to providing free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee.