By MATT BLOIS
A group of regional planning organizations officially kicked off a study last week seeking to improve transit between Maury County and downtown Nashville, but they have been preparing for the public rollout of the study for months.
During the past year, the Greater Nashville Regional Council, WeGo Public Transit and The Tennessee Department of Transportation have been meeting with city and community leaders in Williamson County and Maury County to determine what the south corridor study would look like.
City leaders had mixed reactions.
At a Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session in June 2018, Mayor Rick Graham called the city’s financial contribution to the study “the best $16,000 we’ll ever spend.”
Brentwood City Manager Kirk Bednar was more skeptical at a May 2018 informational meeting for Brentwood City Commissioners.
“While we may not be a real transit-conducive community in our land use, the reality is transit may or may not happen,” Bednar said. “But if it does happen it’s coming through Brentwood, and it makes sense for us to be at the table.”
Both cities, along with Franklin, Williamson County and Davidson County, agreed to pay about $16,000 towards the cost of the study.
In fact, Michelle Lacewell, a communications officer for the Greater Nashville Regional Council, said leaders in Williamson County wanted to expand the study.
“The mayors on the corridor said if we do this we want to get all the things we need out of it to decide if we’re going to have projects move forward,” she said. “Which meant we needed to do more in-depth data modeling. We needed to look at funding sources.”
Planning organizations originally budgeted $500,000 for the study, but the expanded study will cost about $1 million. The expanded study will make it easier for cities to apply for federal grants.
Before reaching out for the public’s input, Lacewell said planning organizations spent months updating maps and crunching numbers in traffic models.
That work included collecting building permits to determine where future development would occur. Planners mapped out sidewalks and trails, and also took note of changes to zoning ordinances or city policies on land use.
“When people tell us they have a problem on the corner of X and Y, we need to know what’s there so our recommendations make sense,” Lacewell said.
Originally, the organizations planning the south corridor study hoped to start reaching out to the public in 2018, but the failure of Nashville’s May 2018 transit referendum set that schedule back.
“Given the outcome of the referendum we felt it was best to let the dust on the conversation settle, and finish the data work … It gave us some breathing room,” Lacewell said. “We didn’t want people confused. Is this something else? We wanted peoples’ attention.”
The south corridor study is a follow up to two regional transit studies that both identified the transit corridor between Maury County and Nashville as a priority.
A 2016 study conducted by WeGo Public Transit called nMotion studied how to improve mobility across the entire Middle Tennessee region.
The Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization completed a study called Middle Tennessee Connected in 2016 that examined the same thing. The federal government requires the organization to conduct that kind of study periodically in order to receive federal funds.
The south corridor study will focus specifically on the improving transit south of Nashville. Planners will update the regional studies with results from the south corridor study.
After months of collecting data and compiling information, planners are now reaching out to the public. The Greater Nashville Regional Council has scheduled four public meeting in April and May.
- Maury County – Monday, April 29, Memorial Building, 308 W 7th St, Columbia
- Williamson County – Tuesday, April 30, Williamson County Public Library, 1314 Columbia Ave, Franklin
- Williamson County – Thursday, May 2, Brentwood Library, 8109 Concord Road, Brentwood
- Davidson County – Monday, May 6, Adventure Science Center, 800 Fort Negley Boulevard, Nashville
Residents can stop by those meetings between 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Lacewell said there will more public meetings to follow. The organization is planning to visit churches and smaller communities to make sure everyone has a chance to give feedback on the plan. Eventually, residents will also be able to weigh in on the plan through the organization’s website.