FOX 17 Special Report: Looking at solutions to Nashville’s traffic issues

FOX 17 Nashville
Matt Alvarez

Nashville is expecting another million people to move here in the next 20 years – and the traffic problems that could cause could be disastrous.

FOX 17 traveled to Atlanta and Birmingham to see how those cities are dealing with traffic issues and what can be done in Nashville.

Nashville transit leaders hope to adopt a transportation plan late this summer – but they say they’ll need support from both the public and private sector in order for actual progress to be made.

You only have to check social media sites to see how Nashville commuters feel about the rush hour experience – and it’s not good.

Atlanta’s metro area has more than three times Nashville’s 1.7 million people — Robbie Ashe chairs the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority — he says expanding the current system within the city out to other counties is key

“Transit is one of those things in 21st century is a non-negotiable part of economic development,” Ashe said. “It would be the biggest thing to happen to MARTA since our founding 40 years ago.”

In November 2014, MARTA joined with neighboring Clayton County to move forward with building a commuter rail line.

“Clayton county wanted transit and a heavy rail component so bad, that we left it up to the citizens to vote on it, and the citizens here in Clayton County voted overwhelmingly 74 percent that they wanted this done,” Jeffrey Turner, Clayton County Commissioner said.

Tuner said residents knew they would be taxed, and still overwhelmingly voted yes.

In Birmingham, about 145 miles west, it’s not the train that transit and business leaders are interested in, it’s connecting I-459 to create a highway loop to reduce traffic and spur economic development.

“When completed, this entire interstate beltway will represent 83 miles of better access for residents, businesses and other point to point travel,” Brian Hilson, BBA CEO, said.

Stacy Gibson has been a resident of Birmingham since 1972, and said the area is commonly referred to as “malfunction junction.”

“I suppose it’s called that because all the traffic comes together at that area, and it’s totally chaotic a lot of the times,” Gibson said.

In Nashville, Stephen Bland, the CEO of the MTA and RTA to see what’s being done here now, to help solve our sometimes dangerous and mostly frustrating traffic problem.

“It has to be an ongoing process, transportation is like education, whatever improvements you make now, you have to make them year after year after year, every 40, 80, 100 years,” Bland said.

Bland points to Motion’s 2016 comprehensive regional transportation plan, which includes light rail, bus rapid transit and commuter rail. If that system is adopted, Bland says it would require the transit authority to raise $165 per year per person, most likely collected through a tax

“There has to be absolutely the dedicated commitment to public money towards these issues, no city in the region, not Atlanta, not Birmingham, not Denver, not NY, not LA, not SL, are doing these things with fares and private investment alone,” Bland said.

So it’s the question facing drivers in Nashville is how much would you be willing to pay for a new transit system that could get you from point A to B, much faster?

If you’d like to take a public survey about what you think should be done to solve Nashville’s growing traffic problem click here and here.