NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Metro Council members chose between funding sidewalks near schools or funding bikeways when they reviewed the Capital Spending Plan delivered to them from the mayor's office on Tuesday.
The plan as delivered had $2 million for bikeways out of $7 million suggested in the walk/bike plan released earlier in the year.
The plan had $30 million for sidewalk projects in the city, and $3 million earmarked for sidewalk projects near schools.
Members of the council voted to take the $3 million earmarked for those sidewalk projects and move the funds to be for bikeways in the area.
"Money is always tight in a budget, and you need to make choices, and i don't think this was a good choice," councilman Jeremy Elrod said on Wednesday.
Elrod was in opposition of moving the money for sidewalks to bikeways, saying student safety was of the utmost importance.
"While a school may have sidewalks right on the street, those sidewalks don't make a lot of sense if they aren't connected into the neighborhoods, into the side streets those schools sit on," Elrod explained.
The vote was a voice vote, and the majority voted to move the money. Elrod and other council members believe that some members saw that there was $30 million for sidewalks with no restrictions that could be used to go to sidewalks near schools, and by moving the money they could still add sidewalks while giving bikeways sufficient funding.
"No matter what the math looks like, we're taking money from sidewalks to build bikeways. I agree we need to build more bikeways, but I don't think it was a good budget choice to sacrifice sidewalks for it," Eldrod said.
For many council members, it was a tough topic to come to a decision on.
"I'm torn because I want us to be a city that really embraces safe routes to schools, but that also includes bikeways to and from schools," Freddie O'Connell said, adding that he sees why the money was taken from the sidewalk budget. "People went to schools and said, 'Where are you putting these sidewalks?' People went to Public Works and said, 'Where are these sidewalks going to go around schools?' There were no firm answers."
O'Connell's hope is that some of the money for general sidewalks will be used for sidewalks near schools, and he hopes the money moved to fund bikeways will help improve the accessibility of Nashville.
"This is that moment," O'Connell said. "We're not going to build roads, we're not going to widen our roads, we have to re-imagine our roads."
At the time of the voting, the money for the sidewalks was not allocated for specific projects.