By BROOKE WANSER
As traffic increases in and around Williamson County, leaders are seeking answers and alternatives.
In a recent trip to Denver, Colorado, members of the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce and community leaders utilized various modes of public transportation to get around, and learned how communities in the area are finding solutions to their transportation problems.
Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson was among those who visited Denver.
The best practices the group observed in Denver will be part of the agenda of Williamson, Inc.’s third annual Transportation Summit, set for 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Oct. 18 at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs. Meanwhile, the Home Page spoke to Mayor Anderson about his observations.
Franklin Home Page: What stood out to you as a possible transit solution on the trip?
Rogers Anderson: I think there were several things that we saw that could have application to our county and our cities. It was great to have all of us there together to look at some of those viable options. We were fortunate to get to ride the rail in, how that works for the community, and how it was set up was very impressing to me. It was non-complicated, it was easy to navigate, and I think people would like that. That’s probably one of the more costly options, but long term … it’s going to be a combination of several.
There were several hundred miles of bike trails, so much of that was about how your community has to live within walking and biking distance. We don’t have the interconnectivity put together yet. There were a lot of good takeaways, and I think we can eventually begin to see those pieces. We were in Austin a couple of years ago, and I wasn’t as impressed with their transit system. There still was congestion at those peak periods, but it did create some different thoughts.
FHP: How long will it take to map out a transit solution once the southern corridor study is done?
RA: Once we get that, coupled with some other studies, we can begin to see how all of that can work. It’s a willingness of the taxpayer and the consumer who really drive and push for those solutions. Elected officials are the ones who may study it, but at the end of the day, it’s not free, and there has to be a cost associated with that. It’s probably three to five years from now to the point that you get to maybe offering some temporary solutions up and down I-65; putting all those pieces together is going to take several years. It will have a heavy price tag, but it will help our transportation issues. I think we can get some of them done sooner than others. And it’s about how does county and city and state and federal work together, because it’s different pots of money.
FHP: Did you get any ideas for transit funding solutions?
RA: The first time they went after funding [for transportation in Denver], it didn’t pass. That’s so typical of all across America, because the people putting it together, they didn’t explain it, they didn’t educate the people. For this amount of money, this is what you get, and you build off from that. Each of the communities up there bought into it. When you do something like that in the beginning, there may be one section that doesn’t see the relief until the next one is put in. There is federal money available, but it does require local matching. We need to have a good solid plan so we can take it to the people and explain to them.
FHP: Do you think Williamson County can be a leader in finding transportation solutions?
RA: I think all of us have got to be in a position to take advantage of the other pieces of the puzzle. For example, if Davidson County came down to the county line [with a public transit line], what happens after that? What happens over in Rutherford County? We have a lot of workers who live and work in Williamson from Rutherford, we have about an equal amount coming to and from Davidson to Williamson. All that coming together, we’ve got to find a way as counties and communities to work together. Or you just come to the end of the county line and it’s just nothing. Davidson County has already taken the lead. We have to be able to integrate with their systems where they terminate in our communities. The time is now, but unfortunately, we’re not there yet with the study. We will get there, but it’s going to be a process. We all want these solutions, but it’s going to be an education process.