Nashville's Mayor wants to create a Department of Transportation by reorganizing city departments

Nashville Traffic
Posted at 5:05 PM, Apr 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 19:57:50-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — One of the biggest complaints from citizens and tourists alike in Nashville is our growing traffic problem. Nashville Mayor John Cooper hopes to change that, but the plan he's proposing would require some big changes.

"We don’t have a Department of Transportation in Nashville. Most people are kind of stupefied by that," said Cooper in an interview with NewsChannel 5.

Cooper believes creating a local Department of Transportation can prepare us for the future by fixing a major problem of the past. "Where were you held up in getting home to Madison? Let’s study that, let’s improve that," he said.

Not to mention, millions from the federal government may soon be up for grabs. "I do think the Biden era will be a lot of money for infrastructure and transportation. Let’s create a platform here in Nashville to use it well," said Cooper.

Cooper argues that Nashville's transportation issues can't wait, and if Metro Council approves his Memorandum of Understanding, he won't have to.

Under his proposal, the city would move trash pickup from Metro Public Works to Metro Water. That would free up Public Works to focus solely on transit.

In essence, it would create a defacto Department of Transportation but would still be called Metro Public Works. By changing the focus of the office, Cooper then plans to recruit a new transit-minded director. "We want to recruit a superstar who goes to work every day and their job is to make our commuter's life easier," he said.

To officially rebrand the department as DOT, Nashville voters would have to approve a Metro Charter amendment during the 2022 election cycle.

"I will say -- this one caught me a little by surprise," said District 19 Metro Councilman Freddie O'Connell.

O'Connell tells NewsChannel 5 he loves the idea of a local Department of Transportation. He's just worried about moving solid waste to Metro Water, mainly because it's never been done before. "There is nobody that goes, 'hey we’ll just shove our solid waste into water, sewer and stormwater and do it all over here,'" he said.

So he plans to support Cooper's proposed MOU, only if this is temporary and solid waste eventually gets its own department too. "By the time we come back around in a year or two and offer a charter amendment to the people of Nashville -- what I’ll be pushing for there is a stand-alone solid waste department," said O'Connell.

Cooper seemed open to the idea, indicating he may not be done with the restructuring of Metro government. "Fixing traffic is the first step I hope in a series of very thoughtful rearrangements of government to help get people’s priorities accomplished," said Cooper.

Now if you're concerned about your trash pick up, Cooper says there's nothing in this MOU before the council that would change the process or price. However, he has indicated in the past that he's open to restructuring how solid waste operates as well.