PHOTO: Community members discuss and map out problem areas in Nashville’s south corridor during the community meeting in Columbia. / Photo by Alexander Willis
By ALEXANDER WILLIS
The first round of the South Corridor Study, which aims to build a collection of community derived recommendations for the future of transportation in Nashville’s south corridor, kicked off Monday evening in Columbia, where local leaders, planners and community members gathered to talk and share ideas.
Nashville’s south corridor, which starts in Nashville and runs south into the heart of Columbia, is among the state’s most trafficked routes, with hundreds of thousands of residents traveling on I-65 alone daily. As the population of Williamson County continues to explode, growing by well over 45,000 since 2010, government leaders have sometimes struggled to keep the infrastructure up to pace.
The months-long study is spearheaded by the Greater Nashville Regional Council (GNRC); an infrastructure planning organization made up of local leaders representing 13 Middle Tennessee counties, in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and WeGo Public Transit, formally known as the Regional Transportation Authority of Middle Tennessee. The GNRC has recruited the aid of WSP USA – an engineering firm – to conduct the study at a cost of $1,000,000.
Douglas Delaney, Senior Supervising Planner for WSP USA, was featured at the community meeting and gave a brief presentation on its goal, and possible outcomes.
Through WSP USA’s early research, they’ve projected Nashville’s south corridor will, by 2040, increase in population by 76 percent, see roadway volume increase by 86 percent, and time spent driving increase by 113 percent.
Possible solutions to the regions booming population and transportation needs relayed by Delaney could be anything from roadway and intersection upgrades to light rail transit and commuter rails. Ideally, Delaney said, input from the community would eventually shape the study over the next few months to narrow down exactly what, and where, the region needs in terms of transportation infrastructure.
“We’re looking to understand what the issues, what the concerns, as well as what the opportunities people see in the corridor, and then we will take that and as we move forward with our analysis, we will look at what the opportunities are, and that will be the basis for the recommendations,” Delaney said. “Again, our recommendations will focus not only on transit or the potential for transit along the corridor, but also other roadway intersections, as well as future mobility and other options along the corridor. So what’s the potential, what’re the options, and how does it all fit with what’s here today, and how can that help to shape growth and development in the future.”
WSP USA had previously conducted and completed studies for all major corridors extending outside of Nashville, with its south corridor being the last. As far as when shovels may actually hit the ground as a result of the south corridor study findings, Delaney said, would be years out, but that it was important to start from somewhere.
“As part of this study, we’ll look at short, medium and long-term recommendations, and the intent is to identify kind of what the vision is for the corridor, and then to start that planning process so that you’re taking the steps towards that long-term vision,” Delaney said. “But all of that takes time, all of that takes money, so it’s hard to say exactly when you would see something on the ground. This is really an initial study and those recommendations will have to be carried forward into the [GNRC]’s plans and other plans, get funded, and go through a number of steps, and that will all be captured ultimately in this study as far as what those steps are.”
During the community meeting, large maps of Nashville’s south corridor where laid out on tables, with attendees gathered around placing stickers on areas they deemed to need widenings, intersections, or other transportation improvements.
Local leaders were also in attendance, such as Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder and Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles.
“I think anytime when you’re doing a project that pertains to growth, having community feedback and community buy-in is essential,” Ogles said. “Because at the end of the day, whether it’s their tax base, or their pockets, or how they commute to work, the citizens of Maury County are going to be directly impacted. I think it’s a great, great thing to have community buy-in on the early stages, which is where we’re at, and then throughout the process.”
Monday’s meeting was just the first in a series of four meetings along Nashville’s south corridor, with the following three scheduled for this week. For more details on when and where the meetings will be held, click here. After the first four meetings, the second round of community meetings will be held in June and July, and finally the third and final round of meetings in August and September.