'People will get killed:' Nashville looking at pedestrian safety along Murfreesboro Pike

Posted at 2:30 PM, Nov 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-09 16:29:15-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Brenda Perez stood along Murfreesboro Road, at least where there was room to stand on Tuesday.

The corridor jumps from areas with a few sidewalks that putter out into nothing.

"Specifically here in this area, the infrastructure is minimal or non existent," said Perez, who is the Walk Bike Nashville Community Engagement Manager. "This is one of the busiest bus rider transit routes. It’s busy all day long. Combine that with a lack of infrastructure, people will continually get killed.

A pedestrian struck and killed Tuesday ignited conversation about the safety of the Murfreesboro Road corridor. The victim was about 250 feet from the crosswalk at McGavock Pike when he was hit. Emergency personnel pronounced him dead at the scene. The Nashville Department of Transportation & Multimodal Infrastructure or NDOT now handles all road maintenance, traffic signal and sidewalk work in the city.

Officials in that department said they were investigating what happened on Murfreesboro Road.

"Currently NDOT engineers and staff conduct an informal follow-up to the site to understand the conditions of the area and to identify if those conditions contributed to the crash," NDOT spokesperson Cortnye Stone said. "Staff then identifies any implementable countermeasures to prevent further crashes. Part of the above referenced legislation includes the formation of formalized quick-strike teams that would deploy at crash locations to assess conditions and develop countermeasures."

The crash happened prior to sunrise and that area of Murfreesboro Pike does not have street lighting.

Perez said the street lighting remained a paramount issue.

"The lighting right here at McGavock is very sparse," Perez said. "We need pedestrian-scaled lighting so drivers can be more attuned to users. The other thing about lighting. When we end daylight savings time, that is when most pedestrian deaths happen with the sunset being earlier. It’s really a time for drivers to be attentive to extra."

Mayor John Cooper's office said the creation of Vision Zero was a path to making progress with creating zero pedestrian deaths in Nashville. So far this year, there's been 30, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Homeland and Security. To broaden that figure, there have been 152 deaths in the state this year, per that same data set.

Officials told NewsChannel 5 previously they were dedicated to the effort.

"NDOT’s goal is to reduce pedestrian crash fatalities to zero by taking a close look at roadway conditions and designs at locations where pedestrian crashes occur with higher frequency," Stone said. "Roadway width, presence of pedestrian or bicycle accommodations, street lighting, and speed are all examples of factors that contribute to the overall safety of Nashville’s transportation network, and are considerations as we look to make important improvements."

NDOT interim director Faye Dimassimo said that the pikes were the main concern where there were higher speeds and lighting issues.

"The mayor committed to making Nashville a Vision Zero city – that is, eliminating pedestrian death," Cooper's spokesperson Andrea Fanta said. "Vision Zero and pedestrian/traffic safety is a major, major component of the Metro Transportation Plan, which the mayor created and council later adopted. Lastly, the mayor’s last two capital spending plans have included millions of dollars for pedestrian and traffic safety."

Stone said NDOT was working with members of Metro Council on upcoming legislation to make some recommended policy changes related to Vision Zero.

But District 13 Councilman Russ Bradford — whose district contains Murfreesboro Pike — doesn't feel aligned with the mayor's office when it comes to funding or the initiative in general.

"There’s several transit and infrastructure related details, but I don’t know them because the mayor’s office hasn’t communicated those to me," Bradford said. "The administration doesn’t care about District 13. We aren't the politically affluent neighborhoods. There’s been no care to improving the lives in District 13."

This is a developing story. Check back with NewsChannel 5 for updates.