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Project Nashville: Researchers propose new solutions to Nashville's traffic congestion

FOX 17 News

Project Nashville continues FOX 17's yearlong in-depth look into Nashville's growth and how it affects your safety and quality of life. Only on FOX 17 News, some city researchers believe a viable fix to Nashville’s traffic congestion could be expanding public transportation and building more housing where public transit is.

Nashville voters chose not to approve the 2018 Let’s Move Nashville referendum. Although the idea to build more housing in areas where there’s public transportation is one suggestion, it’s not a cure all solution.

“Right now we have a transit system that is doing what it can with a bus system that is in traffic with the cars and is getting people to work and education,” says Jennifer Carlat, Chief Policy Officer with the Nashville Chamber of Commerce. “But until we can put some more investment, we’re not going to be able to move as many people.”

The Nashville Chamber of Commerce released its 2018 Vital Signs report and it finds 77 percent of people want elected officials to come up with another transit plan and bring it to the voters.

“Right now the funding streams are pretty separate. There’s separate funding streams for roads and bridges and then for interstates versus transit,” Carlat says. In order for traffic to improve, Carlat says there needs to be dedicated funding to really fix the traffic issue in the Nashville region.

The cost-of-living is lower in Nashville than the national average, research finds. However, with the increased cost of housing and transportation, that doesn’t mean more money in people’s pockets.

“You may have had to move to a part of town that isn’t as well served by transit so then you’ve increased your transportation costs and your housing costs,” Carlat explains. “We see this as a big issue because again, are we getting people in a place where they can live and work and access educational opportunities and work opportunities?”

Right now the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) is working on overhauling I-440 and the Hickory Hollow Parkway project along I-24. But researchers say alleviating traffic elsewhere and extending public transportation can’t happen until there’s dedicated funding from all levels of government: city, state and federal.

One Nashville non-profit is taking the idea of building more housing along transit lines and putting it into action. Urban Housing Solutions, an affordable housing developer, only builds where there’s easy access to bus stops.

“That’s where Nashville is suffering the most is because our cost of living is becoming unsustainable for almost anyone below a median income,” says Urban Housing Solutions Project Developer Brent Elrod. The complex being built in North Nashville at 26th and Clarksville Pike will be completed in July, adding to the organization’s 1,200 units citywide.

For people like Connie Diggins, she relies on living close to a bus stop because she doesn’t have and can’t afford a car. “As soon as you walk out the door, there’s a bus stop over there, there and there. So there’s three bus stops.”

Even for people who make ends meet, it’s a challenge many agree needs to be tackled now so everyone can benefit.

“I think the key is that we need to build more housing and specifically housing where it can be linked with transportation because then we get two-for-one. We can reduce a family’s household expenses in housing and in transportation,” Carlat said.

No new plan has been released since the referendum failed. In the coming weeks, Project Nashville will be asking questions of our elected officials about this and will bring you any new plans or ideas being discussed.

Watch Project Nashville every Wednesday on FOX 17 News at 9 p.m.

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