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Mayor's Office Expects Transit Tax Vote In 2018

Posted at 7:04 PM, Jun 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-01 22:02:19-04

Nashville's transit plan includes light rail, rapid buses with lane and signal priority, expanding sidewalks and protected bike lanes, but voters could be expected to pay for it.

The possible future view of Gallatin Pike is a stark contrast to what drivers and pedestrians see every day.

Renderings show large multi-use paths outside the driving lanes for bikes and pedestrians and a light rail train running through what is now a median.

Gallatin Pike, along with Murfreesboro Pike, Nolensville Pike and Charlotte Pike are the four major light rail corridors in Nashville Mayor Megan Barry's three-year transit plan. Drivers from outside the county could drive and park at the furthest stop or, ideally, willing neighboring counties could expand the tracks with their own rail systems. 

The map that was part of the Mayor's presentation last week shows the four light rail routes alongside two commuter rails: the existing Music City Star from the east and a new commuter rail to Clarksville from the northwest.

"This is definitely part of the future of Nashville," said the Mayor's spokesperson Sean Braisted this week.

He's talking about the entire plan, which also includes expanding sidewalks, protected bike lanes and rapid busses with lane and signal priority. There are plans for expanding car sharing like Zipcar or car2go throughout the city. And strategies for cutting down on pedestrian-involved crashes.

The big question: how to pay for it.

"That's going to be key to all of this," Mayor Barry said during her presentation.

If you are a Davidson County voter, you will get to decide.

The Governor's hard fought IMPROVE Act allowed local governments to raise their own transit funds via voter referendum. And the Mayor's office wants a transit tax on the ballot in Davidson County by next year.

"There are multiple options within that, said Braisted to NewsChannel 5 Traffic Anchor Rebecca Schleicher, "the sales tax is one of those, you can also look at hotel-motel taxes, business taxes, stuff like that."

Property taxes are another option. But unlikely to be as popular.

A recent Vanderbilt Poll shows more than two-thirds of Nashville voters support raising sales taxes for transit by half a cent.

"I think Davidson County residents are really hungry for a fix to transit and they know the only way to do that is to have sustainable funding in place for that to happen," said Braisted.

With 360,000 people commuting to or living and working in Nashville, there's no question things are getting tight and frustratingly slow on the roads.

And the Mayor's office says now's the time to move swiftly.

"The sooner you get it on the ballot, the sooner voters can approve it, the sooner work can start on the projects," Braisted said. 

Time will tell if Nashville is on the same track as the current administration.