In Robertson County, north of Nashville, about 70 percent of workers commute across county lines each day. It’s a fact that makes the fast-growing community an increasingly important player in Middle Tennessee’s new regional transportation plan.
The population has jumped in the town of White House around Interstate 65, which is closer to Kentucky than Nashville. And the roadways haven’t kept up, says Robertson County Mayor Howard Bradley.
“We have an antiquated highway system,” he says, pointing to the winding State Route 76, home to the state-of-the-art White House Heritage High School. The route connects White House and Springfield, the county seat.
“Yet the transportation system to get to that high school is the same that it’s always been. So we are behind the eight ball in terms of catching up with our infrastructure,” Bradley says.
That’s the type of argument he made to help get Robertson County included in the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MPO, which distributes federal road funds.
That campaign took four years. Robertson and Maury counties joined at the start of 2014.
“A vast majority of [commuters] go into Nashville,” Bradley says. “We needed to be part of the general discussion of how we improve transit throughout this region.”
Flash forward: About $200 million in road projects are now scheduled in Robertson — plus more lanes coming to both I-65 and I-24, which cut through the county. (The interstate work will cost an additional $600 million). Those projects appear in the 2040 plan approved last week by the MPO.
At that vote, Robertson County Chamber President Margot Fosnes praised the MPO’s “collective vision.”
“They truly did hear the voice of everyone,” she said. “I think this is the first plan that is truly a regional plan for Middle Tennessee.”
Still, some coveted projects were tabled — leaving some residents disappointed — and Bradley says more state money is needed to cover all his roads in the regional plan.
“A recipe is not a cake,” Bradley says. “We have the recipe right now … but the real bottom line is to have a serious discussion about funding.”
Bradley is among a growing chorus of local officials who want a reevaluation of the state’s gas tax and dedicated funding for mass transit efforts.
Of course, building roads is a long game. The project on U.S. 431 where work has started in Springfield — praised by Bradley — was about 14 years in the making.