PHOTO: Beth Lothers, a county commissioner representing Nolensville, speaks about pathways in Nolensville to a panel of Franklin city officials during Williamson Inc.’s fourth transportation summit on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. / Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
During the county Chamber of Commerce’s annual transportation summit on Tuesday, city and regional leaders discussed upcoming road projects, innovative transportation solutions, and the failed Nashville transit vote.
“We know that there are multiple avenues to solving our transportation challenges,” Matt Largen, the president and CEO of Williamson, Inc., said. “Solutions will come from a regional level, a city level and will come from individual decisions employers and employees make,” he said
During the summit, Largen pointed to companies that offer flex time, like Nissan and Schneider Electric, headquartered locally.
Chris Keeffe, the senior manager corporate communications with Nissan, said their employees can choose when they come to the office to work their eight-hour day.
Schneider Electric employees come to work and find a desk, or work from remote locations.
Largen said he was told by a Schneider executive employees are measured by how much they produce, not how much time they spend at work.
Flex time is just one of the ways to reduce traffic congestion on the roads and improve the state of transit in the county.
Below, read the highlights from the fourth annual Williamson County transportation summit.
Panel One: Now What?
— Williamson, Inc. (@williamson_inc) June 19, 2018
Upcoming Williamson Forward trip
Technical issues may have caused some to overlook the video presentation on transit delivered by Mayor Jackie Millet of Lone Tree, a suburb of Denver, Colorado.
But Williamson County could learn from Lone Tree, a suburb somewhat akin to Brentwood and Franklin, which has begun offering free shuttle service and light rail services into Denver.
Williamson Inc. chamber members met Millet during Williamson Forward, a transportation and infrastructure-focused trip to Denver last fall.
This fall, the chamber will take their third community growth trip to Washington, D.C., where members will spend time in Fairfax County, Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland to explore issues like housing, transportation, education and economic development.
Lessons from the failed transit vote
After Nashville’s $5.4 billion plan to build light-rail trains, a traffic reduction tunnel and new bus routes failed in a May 1 referendum, some wondered how it could have lost by so wide a margin (64 percent voted against the measure).
Steve Bland, the CEO of Nashville MTA and Michael Skipper, AICP, the Executive Director of the Greater Nashville Regional Council, blamed the recently failed transit vote on failure to integrate all pieces of the transit puzzle together.
“These things are difficult to do the first time,” Skipper said. “When you look inside these numbers, it’s not uncommon for the first try.”
Skipper said the referendum failure was a “setback,” but one that he and others learned from. On any future proposal, Skipper said he hoped to see technology more prominently incorporated.
“Don’t think you can put transportation in a bubble and isolate it from other community issues,” Bland warned, referring to Nashville schools, community spending priorities and affordable housing.
Both men agreed an effective transit solution would get everyone on board through multiple points, not just a rail line or expanded bus stops.
The requirement in the state budget to build a transit system county by county, Skipper said, is a challenge.
Missing from the discussion was a reference to Tuesday’s New York Times report, which detailed the anti-canvassing efforts of Americans for Prosperity, a group financed by the Koch Brothers, prior to the transit vote in Nashville and other cities across the nation.
What a successful regional commute corridor might look like
In terms of successful transportation solutions, “We still tend to think too narrowly,” Bland said.
Details to a viable transit system would ideally include park and ride facilities, reliable travel time, convenience to living areas, speed, amenities like WiFi and comfortable seating, and a cost that is equal or less than the cost associated with driving.
Bland emphasized that not one, but each of these details added together would contribute to a public transportation system that people want to utilize.
— Matt Largen (@MattLargen) June 19, 2018
Southern Corridor Study
“Not only is the congestion worsening on the corridors that already familiar with, but it’s spreading like a cancer to corridors that are not congested today,” Skipper said. “So your solution about taking alternative routes, or certain times of day to get around that congestion, is going to fade in the future.”
The Southern Corridor Study, which cost around $1 million, will provide information about which routes need improvement and expansion.
After a county-wide Major Corridors Study was completed in 2016, the Southern Corridor Study includes solutions that will also affect Maury and Davidson Counties.
This isn’t just a planning study that’s going to have a recommendation that sits on the shelf until such time you have the ability to finance it,” Skipper said. “You have that ability now, to work through that issue now. This is a really tangible opportunity that’s in front of you.”
The study’s results are expected to be released by the end of the year.
Franklin traffic issues
Franklin’s City Administrator Eric Stuckey pointed to planning for the future was one hallmark of the city’s success.
“Success is not an accident,” he said, “you plan for it.”
He pointed to the city’s impact fee system, which he said was one of the most “developed” in the state. The high impact fees for developers help pay for the infrastructure necessary to responsibly develop an area.
Long-range planner Kelly Dannenfelser said the city continues to receive requests from those in the urban growth boundary who want to be annexed into city limits.
But annexing everyone in would overwhelm the city’s services.
Because of state law, it’s up to the property owner to request annexation, and up to the city to say yes or not.
Mack Hatcher Parkway within sight
The city of Franklin is finalizing acquisition on one major tract for the long-awaited Mack Hatcher Parkway project, aiming to open the project for bids by this December.
“Since I’ve been in Franklin, this has been our board’s number one priority,” Engineering Director Paul Holzen said.
The estimated cost of the 2.75 mile, three year project including the building of a bridge is $30 million.
A 12-foot wide, multi-use trail from Westhaven to the Williamson County Recreation Center will also be included in the project, Holzen said.
Holzen also listed several road projects that have been completed in recent years.
- Phase 3 of McEwen Drive from Carothers Parkway to East of Cool Springs Boulevard.
- Mack Hatcher Parkway Northeast widening project, completed in 2014.
- Carothers Parkway from South Carothers to Long Lane, was completed in 2016.
- The Hillsboro Road renovation was completed this year, complete with water, sewer, gas lines and sidewalks.
- Several phases of a project to fill in sidewalk gaps have been completed, with the last one set to finish up this year.
McEwen Drive’s next phase is set for construction by 2020, while the Franklin Road and Columbia Avenue expansions, and a multi-use trail along State Route 96 are also current priorities for the city.
“That is a lot of stuff,” Largen admitted, as the audience assented with applause.
For a list of local organizations implementing strategies to help alleviate traffic congestion in Williamson County and the region, click here.