CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Success of Montgomery County’s transit planning is going to be expensive.
Its failure, though, could be even more costly, said Steve Bland, CEO of the Regional Transportation Authority and Nashville’s Metropolitan Transit Authority.
That’s why on Wednesday members of RTA and the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee gathered with community officials from Clarksville, Cumberland City, Ashland City and other nearby areas at Freedom Point at the Marina to share their findings on Middle Tennessee’s, particularly Montgomery County’s, transportation future and the next step in the project — determining potential costs.
Each county, though, “has its own flavor,” Bland said.
For Montgomery County, it will come down to finding an option that makes it faster for people to commute than driving on Interstate 24.
“If there is an option that’s faster, more dependable, simpler to use, more will use it,” Bland said during Wednesday’s presentation.
Montgomery County’s options will mostly originate from the findings of the Northwest Corridor Transit Study that the RTA commissioned.
The study ruled out early on options such as light rail and street cars because they are mostly used for shorter lengths of commute compared to the distance between Clarksville and Nashville.
But commuter rail on the Nashville and Western rail lines and “managed lanes,” such as express bus, bus-on-shoulder and bus rapid transit options along I-24 remain potential options, said Shawn Dikes, a consultant with Parsons Brinckerhoff, the engineering and planning firm conducting the study
Dikes presented most of its study to residents in September. He said Wednesday that not much has changed with their findings since then, but consultants now are trying to provide accurate estimates on the number of people that would use the transit options and each option’s cost.
“We’re playing with our station locations to try to figure out the best location to get the most ridership,” Dikes said. “What’s something that works?”
Dikes mentioned consultants have discussed a possible terminal location for rail near Golf Club Lane, but said details such as locations are still fluid.
As for options with buses, Dikes said the frequency of trips and accessibility of park-and-ride lots would need to increase to be attractive to the public.
Middle Tennessee’s population is estimated to grow to more than 3 million people by 2040, up from the about 2 million that live in the area now, according to the RTA.
Mike Evans, executive director of the Clarksville-Montgomery County Industrial Development Board, said the costs won’t pay off immediately, but in the long term, the transportation developments could help Montgomery County handle its job growth and traffic congestion.