Groups against Nashville mayor's $8.9 B transit plan say she should focus on other issues

(Mayor's Office)

Groups for and against Mayor Megan Barry’s transit plan came out for the Metro Council’s final vote on the transit plan on Tuesday night.

Metro Council passed an amended version of the mayor's $8.9 billion transit plan on Tuesday night to send it to a public vote in May.

Ethan Links is co-chair of the Transit for Nashville Coalition, a group of Nashville residents who say the transit plan is the solution to Nashville’s traffic woes. His brother is disabled and relies on the bus to get him around town every day. That’s why Links said he’s fighting for his brother and other Nashville drivers who are fed up with traffic.

“Everyone in Nashville agrees that we can’t let things keep going the way they are," Links said. "The cost of doing nothing this year is going to be far too high. Traffic is only going to get worse."

While many Nashville neighbors might agree traffic is a problem, not all agree on the Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s solution. Barry proposed the billion-dollar transit plan back in October as a solution for Nashville's 'growing gridlock.' The plan passed its second of three votes 30-6 on Jan. 23.

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.

Mayor Barry admitted to an extramarital affair with her former head of security detail last week. This prompted a public outcry and an investigation about a possible misuse of tax payer dollars during the affair. It is unclear if or how this will affect Tuesday's vote, but some Metro Council members think it could cause the vote to be deferred.

Pastor Enoch Fuzz with Corinthian Baptist Church said he wants the Council to defer the vote because the cost of the plan is too much for taxpayers.

“We’re hearing numbers that it’s going to cost $5 billion then $9 billion then $15 billion,” Fuzz said.

Proposals to pay for the transit plan include a 20 percent surcharge on the business tax, a quarter cent increase in the hotel/motel tax, 20 percent surcharge on rental cars, or a half cent sales tax that will be implemented on July 1, 2018, and will grow to one cent in 2023.

Fuzz said he’s not against improving transit but believes the money that would be earmarked for transit should be put elsewhere first.

“There are so many other issues that need attention," Fuzz said. "If you can have taxes for transit, why didn’t anyone ever have taxes for public education, healthcare, violent crime or public safety."

Link believes transit needs to be addressed because it's a problem that's not going away anytime soon.

“People are ready to focus on transit because it was a problem yesterday, it’s a problem today and it’s going to be a problem we’re going to have to fix tomorrow,” Link said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the amended cost of the mayor's transit plan to $8.9 billion.

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