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Nashville mayoral candidate John Cooper wants to focus on pedestrian and driver safety

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Posted at 7:26 AM, Aug 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-20 08:26:04-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville mayoral candidate John Cooper said if elected, he will make tackling the city's traffic and transportation problems a priority during his time in office.

Councilman Cooper released his transportation policy ideas on Monday, which include plans to upgrade the bus system, focus on decreasing traffic efforts, improve sidewalk safety and create a Nashville Department of Transportation.

Cooper wants to give more funding to WeGo to "ensure that it is accessible, fast, frequent and reliable." His plan includes increasing the amount of Davidson County households that live within a half-mile of high-frequency bus services during both rush hour and all day stops. Cooper promises to add more covered, well-lit bus stops along a more grid-like bus system.

In order to reduce time spent in traffic, Cooper says he would make changes to problem intersections, utilize smart traffic signals, widen turn lanes on key routes and limit construction lane closures.

If elected, Cooper said his first year will focus on pedestrian and driver safety by adding more sidewalks, expand protected bike ways and lower speed limits in neighborhood areas. In pedestrian-heavy areas, Cooper wants to reduce lane widths and speed limits, add raised crosswalks, roundabouts, curb extensions and better lighting.

Cooper said the idea to create a Metro Nashville Department of Transportation comes from a Nashville Community Transportation platform. He said this department would help "streamline and accelerate sidewalk construction, make safe street designs more likely to be implemented, and create a more effective home for an ambitious transportation demand management (TDM) program."

His transportation policy plan did not disclose where the city would get funding for the various projects.

Mayor David Briley released the following statement in response to Cooper's policy proposals:

Like most of our opponent's 'policies,' there's little substance here, and there are actually a few discrepancies. He proposes more funding for WeGo, but other than his 2018 proposed sales tax increase, he hasn't provided specifics on where the funding would come from. He says we need more sidewalks, but he voted against $30 million for sidewalks less than a year ago. It should also be noted that as the 2017 Budget Chair, his substitute budget removed funds for new positions at the Metro Division of Transportation within Public Works. The policy also claims that Mayor Briley hasn't done anything to tackle transportation issues, which is objectively false. The mayor's administration has allocated $85 million to roads, sidewalks, bikeways and other transit-related infrastructure, implemented eight traffic-calming projects at high-stress traffic areas around the county and is actively working with federal, state and local officials to develop transit alternatives for corridors like Dickerson Road, Murfreesboro Pike and Nolensville Pike.

In 2018, voters in Davidson County overwhelmingly voted against the "Let's Move Nashville Plan" which would have created five light rail lines by increasing taxes on sales, businesses, rental cars and hotels.

After the referendum, Mayor Briley, who took over the transit efforts following Mayor Megan Barry's resignation, said he would go back to the drawing board to find a common ground in improving transportation.

The city has not released another plan to tackle transit problems since.

Voters will head back to the polls on September 12 to vote in a runoff election between Cooper and Briley.