Engineers weigh-in on Mayor Barry's $5.2B transit plan for Nashville

Engineers weigh-in on Mayor Barry's $5.2B transit plan for Nashville (Fox 17 News/Google Maps)

In light of Mayor Megan Barry’s $5.2 billion transit plan, Music city engineers broke down the effectiveness and return on investment in the plan.

Mayor Barry said this is Metro’s Transportation Solution as most people spend time in traffic each day. 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. Read a full breakdown of the plan here.

Lipscomb University Civil Engineering Professor Dr. Mark McDonald specializes in transportation and structural engineering.

“As we see our travel times really peak up, it really needs to start now,” McDonald said.

McDonald said he knows not everyone wants to pay higher taxes for the project, but it is necessary.

“I think a lot of people aren't aware of is how costly it's going to be not to do it,” McDonald said. “To pay the price in terms of delay on our highway systems as we start to hit their capacity.”

He said people often choose to use light rail more than bus rapid transit, which is good because light rail will move more passengers.

“I do like the fact that those corridors are fairly spaced north, south, east and west,” McDonald said.

Lipscomb University Civil and Environmental Engineering Department Chair Chris Gwaltney said tunneling is expensive, referring to the plan's underground tunnel for light rail and buses below 5th Avenue from Broadway to Charlotte.

“If you can get in consistent material like limestone or soil, it's much easier to do the tunneling than if you mix the rock and the soil,” Gwaltney said.

Still the biggest question is; what happens if infrastructure doesn’t change soon?

“If we don't, I’m just afraid that our progress is come to a screeching halt because people are not going to want to move here because of the transit issues that we have already,” Gwaltney said.

Mayor Megan Barry said her transit plan will provide transit solutions to the traffic mess, but that comes with a cost. Nashville residents will have to pay a slight tax increase. The plan could be voted on as early as Spring 2018.

Proposals for how to pay for it:

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

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

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.

Open house 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.

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