Metro debuts rough draft transit plan highlighting bus improvements, sidewalks and infrastructure repairs

Nashville traffic charlotte pike
Posted at 9:57 AM, Aug 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-21 19:57:45-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — After Nashville's transit plan overwhelmingly failed at the polls in 2018, Mayor John Cooper promised a new plan during his first year in office.

Eleven months after he was sworn in, his transportation adviser is making a rough draft public.

The previous, failed plan cost an estimated $8.9 billion over 15 years. It called for a number of taxes raises, most notably a 1% sales tax increase.

The new plan will cost $1.5 billion over 10 years. Metro Transportation Adviser Faye DiMassimo says the plan will be paid for by state and federal grants, local taxes and private developer contributions.

The plan does not include a tax increase.

"That kind of business approach is exactly what I think our residents, businesses and neighborhoods want us to do," DiMassimo told NewsChannel 5 Traffic Anchor Rebecca Schleicher over Zoom, "because I know everyone still wants to make progress. There’s still a can-do spirit in Nashville."

The 2020 plan includes the priorities Metro staff say they heard directly from residents at 11 community meetings. Most notably they include bus and transit improvements, additional sidewalks and what DiMassimo calls "state of good repair," referencing resurfacing projects, bridge repairs culvert improvements and traffic calming initiatives.

Major bus improvements include rapid transit corridors on Clarksville and Murfreesboro Pikes, giving buses priority to jump the line at traffic lights, have their own lane at times and increase frequency on routes that move from Bordeaux to downtown and between Antioch, the airport and downtown. The Murfreesboro Pike corridor will span 13 miles and cost $418 million, including sidewalk and crosswalk improvements to access the bus stops. The estimated Clarksville Pike corridor will stretch 7 miles and cost $94 million.

A proposed "Better Bus Network" would increase the current bus fleet and add more frequency to stops. It would add crosstown routes, 68 new bus shelters plus transit centers across the county.

DiMassimo says transit is a good investment, even for those who don't ride the bus.

"It helps to spread the demand for capacity," she said, "strong communities are communities where you are moving everyone efficiently, effectively, safely."

The plan includes $200 million to tackle 80% of the priority sidewalk needs across Nashville, which includes 70 miles of sidewalk. And another $200 million for resurfacing projects, pothole maintenance and bridge repair.

$175 million is slated for a project to better connect the Jefferson Street commercial district in North Nashville, which is currently split by I-40.

$117 million is set aside for Charlotte Pike and Gallatin Pike, where infrastructure was significantly impacted by the March tornado. They will be new "innovation" corridors that include new technology for crosswalks, smart signals and green infrastructure.

Additional funds will go toward more than 600 traffic calming project request across the county, as well as 200 miles of bikeways and greenways as part of Metro's commitment to Vision Zero: an initiative to eradicate deadly pedestrian and bicycle crashes.

Currently Metro staff are meeting with council members, then two dozen groups considered transportation stakeholders, before showing the plan to the public in five community meetings, which will likely be digital.

The public will get to weigh in via a city-wide survey.

Staff hope the tweaked plan heads to council for a vote in November.