By Xavier Smith via Lebanon Democrat
Construction of the county’s latest Music City Star train stop began Wednesday as local, regional and state officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the highly anticipated train station.
“It is an exciting day for [the Middle Tennessee Regional Transportation Authority] and Wilson County as we embark on a construction of another Music City Star station in the county – the seventh one that we will have in the eastern corridor of Middle Tennessee,” said Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, who also serves as RTA vice chairman.
Under an agreement approved last year, the Regional Transportation Authority will build the new train station on the Hamilton Springs property.
The station will serve Hamilton Springs residents, but will also include general park-and-ride spaces that can be used by all Wilson County residents. The groundbreaking ceremony brings Hamilton Springs closer to becoming the state’s first transit-oriented development.
“Hamilton Springs is an opportunity to create new riders and provide them with the opportunity to travel to downtown Nashville and live in a great place. As an agency, we’re committed to offering our citizens of Middle Tennessee choices and alternatives on how they can commute,” Hutto said.
The $4.1-million investment included $1.6 million in federal transportation funds allocated by the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, and direct funding from developer Horned Springs Group in a “public-private partnership.”
“Wilson County, in my mind, is keeping up with the times in transportation, and we have to have people like these partners, such as [Jack and Rick Bell], to make this happen,” Hutto said.
Congressman Jim Cooper shared his thoughts on the future train station and Hamilton Springs development.
“I had heard rumors of transit-oriented development for years. I had almost given up hope, and then the Bell family came through. Rick Bell teaches history at Cumberland University, and today he and his brother, Jack, are making history. Thank you for doing that because if mass transit has a chance in Tennessee, it’s on this rail line. We have to make it happen here,” Cooper said.
Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash, as well as RTA and other regional officials made remarks during the ceremony, which ended with remarks from the Bells.
“The RTA folks have made it a very pleasurable journey,” said Jack Bell, who also thanked other involved in the process of bringing the station to the property.
Rick Bell thanked former mayor Philip Craighead and his predecessor, Kathy Warmath, for their work in the project.
“During his time in office, he fully supported this project, helped steer it through the process and without him, it couldn’t have happened,” Bell said of Craighead. “Warmath was for it from day one. She supported it all the way through the process and through her guidance and leadership, as were planning this every vote in the planning commission and city council was unanimous.”
Rick Bell, who also serves as city historian, shard a history lesson on the property, which he said was once home to the Hamilton Springs Hotel.
“It was a resort with mineral water, and people would come and drink the water, take baths and get healthy. Right behind the hotel was the Hamilton Springs train station. So, we’re repeating history today,” he said.
The station is expected to open next year.