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Nashville mayor's transit plan includes city's first light rail system, downtown tunnel

(Fox 17 News)

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry announced Tuesday a $5.2 billion transit plan, which includes the city's first light rail system and an underground tunnel.

During a news conference, Barry unveiled the "Let's Move Nashville" plan.

Key components of the plan include the city's first light rail system, rapid bus transit and increasing the frequency of the existing MTA bus network.

Light Rail

The mayor says light rail, totaling 26 miles, will bring "fast trains that travel in their own lane, avoiding traffic congestion in a safe and dependable way" and is proposed for the following locations:

  • Gallatin Road towards Briley Parkway
  • Murfreesboro Road to Nashville International Airport (BNA)
  • Nolensville Road to Harding Place
  • Charlotte Avenue to I-440
  • Downtown Nashville to Tennessee State University

Rapid Bus

Barry says the rapid bus system will provide maximum speed, safety and efficiency by giving buses priority. It will include signal prioritization, queue jumps, and infrastructure improvements to move transit riders faster to their destination.

It's proposed at the following locations:

  • Dickerson Pike
  • Hillsboro
  • West End corridors
  • Bordeaux route

Improving Existing MTA

Existing bus service improvements include:

  • "State-of-the-art" electric buses and more cross-town routes
  • 15-minute peak service on busy routes
  • Buses running 20 hours of every day.

Downtown Underground Tunnel

Barry also announced how Music City's downtown underground will come into play -- with a tunnel that will run beneath 5th Avenue from Charlotte to Lower Broadway. Barry said the tunnel will ensure quick travel for light rails and bus lines.

"This transportation solution is the largest project in modern Nashville history," Barry said.

The mayor said local workers, small, minority and women-owned businesses will have the opportunity to compete for #TransitForNash jobs and contracts.

Proposals for how to pay for it:

  • Twenty percent surcharge on the business & excise tax.
  • One-quarter percent increase in the hotel/motel tax.
  • Twenty percent surcharge on rental cars.
  • Half percent sales tax that will be implemented on July 1, 2018, and will grow to one percent in 2023.

Barry said she has thought about how these proposals may effect those living in poverty. Barry said free and reduced fares will be available for those experiencing poverty, have a disability, are senior citizens or are under 18 years of age.

More Proposed Improvements

  • Neighborhood Transit Centers
  • Better sidewalks
  • Traffic synchronization
  • Signal improvements
  • Fixing dangerous intersections

MTA released the following statement regarding Barry's plan:

“Metro’s transportation solution is one that will revolutionize public transportation in Nashville, taking us to the next level in terms of service and quality," said MTA CEO Steve Bland. “As I’ve traveled around the country and talked with other cities that have put transit on the ballot, this is by far one of the most ambitious and bold programs for a first-time referendum.”

“It is also comprehensive, in that it dramatically improves bus service in the community – which is the backbone of Metro’s transportation solution," said MTA Board Chair Gail Carr-Williams. "It does this while introducing light rail on some of Nashville's major corridors, which will offer riders a fast and easy way to commute to work, school, a doctor’s office, or their favorite restaurant.”

Open Houses

The Mayor’s Office, Metro Public Works and MTA are hosting a series of open houses as part of a community outreach efforts regarding the transit plan.

Times and Locations

  • Downtown Corridor: Nashville Farmers’ Market Food Court area – Thursday, October 26; 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
  • Northwest Corridor: Tennessee State University, Elliott Hall – Thursday, November 2; 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Charlotte Avenue Corridor: Lentz Public Health Center, Centennial Rooms – Thursday, November 9; 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Murfreesboro Road Corridor: Trevecca, Tarter Student Activity Center – Tuesday, November 14; 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Nolensville Road Corridor: Coleman Park, Gym – Saturday, November 18; 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
  • Gallatin Road Corridor: East Nashville Magnet High – Monday, November 20; 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

The plan could be voted on as early as Spring 2018.

How do you feel about the plan? Vote in our poll below:


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