Did you think the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s mass-transit push ended with the demise of the Amp?
If so, think again.
According to a media advisory, the chamber is launching a new initiative with one goal in mind: “Breaking ground on a rapid-transit project by 2020.”
As we’ve previously reported, Nashville’s swelling population and jobs gains have created a scenario in which the city’s existing transportation infrastructure is being severely tested. Nashville MTA has called the city’s existing mass-transit system inadequate and designed for a small city.
Rolling out a mass-transit system in Nashville is among the most pressing needs for Nashville, and the Middle Tennessee region. It’s a critical piece in the city’s continued economic development efforts for new companies and new workers. Rising rent prices are testing Nashville’s tried and tested pitch as an affordable alternative to other cities, but transportation costs are also a major factor. The risk for Nashville: Will the rapid growth of Nashville create a situation where workers can’t access the jobs that are available?
The chamber will kick off its new initiative Tuesday afternoon, dubbed “Moving Forward: Transit Solutions for Our Region,” according to a news release. The group is designed to engage the public and elected officials on transit issues, research funding solutions for projects and identify where such projects are needed the most.
Bridgestone Americas CEO Gary Garfield has been tapped to chair the initiative’s coordinating committee, according to the release. Pete Wooten, an executive with Avenue Bank, will serve as vice chair.
Breaking ground on a project came closest to reality with the contentious Amp bus rapid-transit project on West End Avenue. Nashville was primed to get $75 million in federal money for the Amp, but the project didn’t get the support of critical state legislators like Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, a Nashville Republican.
While the chamber adamantly campaigned for the Amp, opponents hammered the transit line, arguing it was thrust upon constituents without public input, had design flaws and lacked scope. Mayor Karl Dean said last fall he wouldn’t pursue Metro funding for the project in his final budget, a decision that put the project in limbo before transit officials pulled the plug earlier this year.
Garfield and Wooten are both scheduled to speak at Tuesday’s event alongside state and local transportation officials.