Dozens of residents filed into the Williamson County Public Library Tuesday in Franklin to give their input about how to bring transportation solutions to the South Corridor, or a 35-mile portion of Interstate 65 and Franklin Pike, which runs through Williamson, Davidson and Maury counties.
The first of two public meetings in Williamson County on the South Corridor Study drew a significant turnout among citizens of Franklin, Brentwood, Spring Hill and the unincorporated county. They were anxious to discuss possible solutions and had direct questions for representatives involved.
Residents were asked to stick colored dots on oversized maps marking areas of concern, ranging in severity by color with red being the most congested areas.
“I am concerned about the influx of people going to their jobs and an influx of congestion,” Dixon said as he studied a map of the I-65 corridor. “I want to see plans to get people to their jobs.”
Growth as catalyst of South Corridor Study
Recent studies show that 50,000 cars exit Williamson County to go to their jobs in Davidson County, traveling on I-65, while the same amount leaves Davidson County to enter Williamson County for the same reason. Meanwhile, a combined 357,212 people commute between Williamson, Davidson and Maury counties per day along the corridor.
The South Corridor Study’s aim, according to consultant Emery Hartz of WSP USA, is to help form short-term, mid-term and long-term solutions to help the community manage traffic flow in order to plan for future growth.
By 2040, the Williamson County population is expected to double, possibly reaching 400,000 people, while Middle Tennessee’s population is expected to reach 1 million.
Possible transportation solutions Hartz explained could range from rapid bus transit to light rail in appropriate areas, park and ride lots, more bus routes, the implementation of technology such as traffic signals or even road construction.
Dixon also added he is encouraged that the study includes Maury County, or Columbia, which he said is also a main route for people to get to their jobs, including service workers trying to get to Williamson County.
Hartz said of the citizens who visited her table, a collective concern seemed to emerge regarding congestion on arterial roads connected to the South Corridor, such as a lot of congestion on Concord Road.
Other residents experience congestion all over the county as well, especially in so-called rural areas that are growing.
Planning around traffic congestion
Ron Webber, a 26-year resident of Williamson County, who lives off of Clovercroft Road, said he and his wife, Kathy, have witnessed the exponential growth in the county over the years, which has resulted in more traffic.
“We’ve seen it go from ‘why did you move out into the sticks’ to ‘you have a lot of traffic out here,’” Webber said.
Like many residents, the Webbers time their outings to avoid backups and congestion.
“We don’t plan anything until after 9 a.m. because we live near a school zone,” Webber said. “From 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., there is a line of cars waiting to drop off their kids on Clovercroft. Clovercroft is our only way in and out.”
Rural roads in Williamson County, like Clovercroft, are prone to congestion due to new schools being constructed, which then attract more rooftops.
Citizens offer solutions
However, Webber said he believes one solution to decreasing traffic goes beyond making decisions after traffic emerges as a problem. It resides in making decisions before congestion starts.
Webber emphasized that cities and counties need to collaborate more in land use planning.
“When we let developers plan roads, that’s not the right approach,” he said. “Cities should plan the streets. The infrastructure should come first before development.”
Webber also suggested more ways to navigate traffic back-ups on I-65 or Murfreesboro Road for example. In some cities, frontage roads, or access roads, are constructed to run parallel to higher access roads to promote more traffic movement to avoid gridlock.
South Corridor Study presenter Consultant Doug Delaney told participants like Webber and Dixon that their input in valuable.
"Your input is important for us to make sure the community is involved in solutions and driving this corridor," Delaney said.
The South Corridor Study is a collaboration between the greater Nashville regional Council, Tennessee Department of Transportation, WeGo Public Transit and consultants. For more information, visit southcorridor.org.
Another South Corridor Study public input meeting will be held Thursday, May 2 at the Brentwood Library from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.