PHOTO: Michelle Lacewell, deputy director and chief communications officer for the GNRC, goes over some of the information from Tuesday’s meeting at the Williamson County Public Library. / Photos by John McBryde
By JOHN McBRYDE
Brentwood resident Rick Borchert does a good bit of traveling, and he said that just about anywhere he goes he can find reliable and efficient public transportation to get around.
When he returns home, however, it’s massive gridlock.
“Transportation is difficult, and it’s getting more difficult in the Nashville area,” Borchert said. “When I travel, I can catch a bus and go wherever I want to go. But not around here… People need to start doing something. It’s frustrating because people talk, but there’s no action.”
Borchert brought his frustrations out to Tuesday evening’s community meeting for the recently launched South Corridor Transportation Study at the Williamson County Public Library in Franklin. Around 85 people came out to learn more about the plan and to provide input on the project that has been developed through a partnership from the Greater Nashville Regional Council, WeGo Public Transit and The Tennessee Department of Transportation.
The group of regional planning organizations officially kicked off the study in early April seeking to improve transit between Maury County and downtown Nashville, but they have been preparing for the public rollout of the study for months.
The study is now at the phase where it will engage residents and business owners along the fast-growing corridor connecting communities in Davidson, Williamson and Maury counties to refine the recommendations from regional planning efforts and to identify projects that can compete for funding. The study will evaluate a variety of options along Interstate 65, US Highway 31/State Route 6 (Franklin Road), and the CSX railway. The corridor includes rapidly developing neighborhoods like Cool Springs, Nashville’s Wedgwood Houston, The Gulch and others.
Tuesday’s meeting in Franklin followed one in Columbia Monday night and precedes one scheduled for Brentwood Thursday and for Nashville Monday, May 6.
“These community meetings are the time and place in the planning process for people to have their input incorporated into the final recommendation,” said Michelle Lacewell, deputy director and chief communications officer for the GNRC. “One of the biggest challenges that I’ve seen over the last few years in the transit effort is that there’s often a lot of pushback that these recommendations for projects came from out of nowhere and for some people that’s true. They did not have the opportunity to see it come through the planning process. So we’re trying really hard to connect the infancy of a project to this planning activity.”
In addition to the scheduled meetings that are underway, the study groups will also be giving presentations to various organizations that are in the south corridor region, such as churches or civic groups.
These will wrap up by the end of May or early June, and project organizers will evaluate all the input received and make a recommendation sometime around mid-summer.
“The reason we’re looking at the south corridor, and this will hopefully come as no surprise to anyone, is the region is growing and will continue to grow,” said Doug Delaney, who is with the WSP consulting firm in Nashville that is working on behalf of the three entities that launched the study. “By 2040, we’re going to have more people, we’re going to have more roadway volume, more jobs — and what that ultimately means is we’re all likely going to spend more time driving and sitting in traffic.”
It’s a daunting task, said Ron Webber of Franklin, who turned out for the meeting with his wife, Kathy Webber.
“It just seems like the growth is happening so fast they’re not ahead of it, so we’re kind of playing catch-up. … There’s not one answer, and there’s not one problem.”
The next community meeting is Thursday at the Brentwood Library from 5:30-8 p.m.