Tenn. Plans to Spend $8.5B on Infrastructure

Officially known as Middle Tennessee Connected, the 2016 to 2040 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) addresses transportation goals and needs for a seven?county area.

📅   Tue March 01, 2016 - Southeast Edition
Lori Tobias - CEG CORRESPONDENT


Officially known as Middle Tennessee Connected, the 2016 to 2040 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) addresses transportation goals and needs for a seven?county area.
Officially known as Middle Tennessee Connected, the 2016 to 2040 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) addresses transportation goals and needs for a seven?county area.

After three years of work, members of the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) adopted a plan that will set the course for mid Tennessee regional transportation projects for more than two decades to come.

Officially known as Middle Tennessee Connected, the 2016 to 2040 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) addresses transportation goals and needs for a seven‐county area, including Davidson, Maury, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties, and was crafted by mayors from 30 cities, as well as county executives and transportation officials.

“Today's vote is another step forward in improving the region's transportation network and protecting our quality of life,” said Ken Wilber Portland mayor, who serves as the MPO executive board chairman. “Stakeholders throughout the region have worked hand-in-hand with the MPO staff to develop this plan, and great attention has been given to the selection of projects to ensure that our limited transportation funds make the greatest impact across the region.

The federal government mandates that the nation's metropolitan areas plan 20-plus years in advance and account for all regionally‐significant road, transit, freight, technology and walking and biking projects in their respective MPO planning areas. Middle Tennessee Connected provides a balanced, financially-feasible set of transportation improvements that can be constructed or implemented over the next 25 years, said Michelle Lacewell, spokeswoman of MPO.

The planned projects total nearly $8.5 billion with funding expected from federal, state and local revenues. Those investment recommendations are centered around four main goals:

• To maintain a safe and reliable transportation system for people and goods

• Help local communities grow in a healthy and sustainable way

• Enhance economic competitiveness by improving private sector performance and Adoption of Regional Transportation Plan — 2 of 3

• Spend public funds wisely by ensuring a return on investment.

“The collaborative process used to develop Middle Tennessee Connected identified and documented local and regional transportation needs over the coming decades,” said Doug Demosi, Rutherford County planning director and chairman of the MPO's Technical Coordinating Committee. “As such, the plan contains a long-term vision to expand and modernize transit options, create more walkable and active communities, and reimagine regional corridors with integrated technology.”

The development of the plan is interconnected with other local and statewide transportation planning underway across the region, Lacewell said. It serves as the gateway for federal transportation funding for roadway and transit recommendations that come out of local community planning or studies conducted by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). The plan places a growing emphasis on directing more of the anticipated revenue to major transit projects, and lists nine major capital projects identified by local communities and transit agencies as priorities for the region.

Those projects include:

• Upgrading the aging interstate loop in downtown Nashville, estimated in 2015 dollars to cost about $375 million.

“That's not a project that has been developed yet,” Lacewell said. “It's something we are working with TDOT for the future — potentially 2030 to 2040.” But Lacewell noted the timeline could change or it may involve short-term projects leading up to the longer-term project.

“That is something that has been identified as incredibly important to mobility. Everything backs up in the morning and evening. We've identified it as a major priority and we have funding allocated to improve that loop.”

• Incorporating rapid transit technology into the corridors between Nashville and Franklin, Murfreesboro and Gallatin.

“One of those projects is in Gallatin and is going North,” Lacewell said. “The project has been named the NE Transit Corridor and we're calling it the NET Corridor. The improvements would incorporate transit technology, dedicated lanes, managed lanes and intersection improvements. We are presenting it as one priority for funding.”

The cost of the first phase is marked at $8 million. Another project set for the 2030 horizon is estimated at $140 million.

• Modernizing the commuter rail service between Davidson and Wilson counties.

The cost for this project has not been determined, Lacewell said. The rail service, dubbed the Music City Star, has been in operation since 1996. “It's really gained ridership and popularity in the last five to seven years,” she said. “It needs upgrade of cars and Wifi on the train. There is a lot of transit-oriented development going up on that line.”

• Providing a new transit option to serve commuters between Nashville and Clarksville, which also would benefit the residents in North Nashville.

There is currently a study being done on the NW Corridor, which will determine how the agencies will proceed. It may look at utilizing an abandoned section of rail or it could be an express bus route with dedicated lanes, Lacewell said.

• Improving state routes in the fast growing areas of Maury, Robertson, Williamson and Wilson counties.

Additionally, funding has been earmarked for three additional corridors. “It will most likely need to be combined with additional federal, state and local money to fully implement the project that ultimately is designed/engineered through the project development/community involvement process, Lacewell said. “There is a lot to still be determined about these projects as we move forward.”

• Nashville-Gallatin Northeast Corridor Rapid Transit/Managed Lanes: $427 million ($341 million in federal funds) to be completed between 2021 to 2030

• Nashville-Franklin South Corridor Rapid Transit/Managed Lanes: $336 million ($268 million in federal funds), to be completed between 2021 to 2030

• Nashville-Murfreesboro Southeast Corridor Rapid Transit/Managed Lanes: $735 million ($588 million in federal funds), to be completed between 2031 to 2040