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Williamson County residents, leaders weigh in on public transportation issue

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As Middle Tennessee roads experience more and more congestion, the proposed solutions are seemingly endless, but implementing an appropriate fix is no easy task.

In acknowledgement of this problem, Williamson, Inc. hosted its Transportation Summit to discuss the South Corridor Study’s quest to engage the community and find a solution to this complex issue.

The South Corridor Study is being conducted in partnership with Greater Nashville Regional Council (GNRC), WeGo Public Transit and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) as well as the general public to devise a solution to road congestion across three counties: Maury, Williamson and Davidson.

Representatives from Williamson, Inc., Nissan, city of Franklin and other stakeholders gathered at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs Conference Center to learn about the South Corridor Study’s ongoing project and hear from the mayor of peer community Lone Tree, Colorado, Jackie Millet.

Millet presented her city’s numerous alternative transportation solutions, which reduced traffic and increased mobility for those leaving their cars behind. She described the implementation of light rails, on-demand bus service and lane expansion to show the many ways Lone Tree undertook its growing population.

“We believe in an all-of-the-above strategy,” Millet said.

“You cannot do one thing because that one thing does not solve everyone’s needs.”

This is evident by the high number of commuters between counties, who require both short- and long-distance solutions.

Community leaders share reactions

Several attendees of the Transportation Summit shared their reactions to the talk and suggested some solutions for Williamson County.

Senior Policy Analyst for the Nashville Metropolitan Planning Organization Rochelle Carpenter said she regularly rides the bus but would like to see greater frequency of existing transportation and more cross-county options. She said she’s heard numerous opinions on possible solutions.

“I’ve seen a range, and I’ve certainly talked with people about a range, whether it’s the bus-on-shoulder option or a train,” Carpenter said.

“I ride the bus now. Buses are fine by me, but I do love the option of a train too. For me, I just want more public transportation.”

Lynn Maddox, community relations county liaison at Vanderbilt University, also said she would like to see more options for cross-county travel. She said she often travels back and forth between Williamson and Davidson counties but struggles with the idea of public transportation because she would not be able to get exactly where she needs to go.

“It’s always the first mile, last mile issue,” Maddox said. “If there was a way I could get on the bus and get to Cool Springs or get to downtown Franklin and then have the last mile worked out, I really would love that. I would love to not to worry about parking a car.”

Some short-distance solutions mentioned in the presentation were designated pedestrian and biking paths as well as electric scooters.

As Millet encouraged, implementing several different types of public transportation may be an ideal solution, but funding creates a bit of a road block. Executive Vice President of the Tennessee Road Builders Association Kent Starwalt pointed out that most of Williamson County’s budget goes towards schools, leaving less money for infrastructure development.

“Any time you have transportation alternatives, it’s a good thing. And if there’s a way to address it in a cost-effective way, then I think people would support it,” Starwalt said.

“But the real problem is, are people going to be willing to pay for that system?”

President and CEO of Williamson, Inc. Matt Largen agreed that funding might be a bit more of an issue for Williamson County than for Lone Tree, Colorado, but he expressed the importance of collaborating with the surrounding region.

“One of our big components is the funding goes towards schools, so I think we’re a little more challenged that way in coming up with a funding source. But I think what we learned is we’ve got to be part of a regional solution for transportation,” Largen said.

However, Millet’s proposed solution to funding issues is partnering with private companies. She shared that $330 million were leveraged through partnerships to implement Lone Tree’s transportation initiatives compared with the city’s investment of $13.5 million. But first, she said, comes community engagement — the South Corridor Study’s first step.

The Study is currently conducting a survey to get a feel for what the public wants. Then come the negotiations for funding.

“If it’s important to our community, then it’s something that we figure out how to address,” Largen said.

The South Corridor Study planned community meetings and drop-in locations can be found at southcorridor.org.

(1) comment

RPBrentwood

The only real solution, IMHO, is a full-metro light rail or underground subway system that serves Davidson and all surrounding counties. But the state ruled a few years ago that each county has to come up with its own solution. Imagine the confusion of having to change trains at every county line. It basically removed any chance of the extended Nashville area having any effective mass transit.

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