Councilman says transportation plan won’t bankrupt the city

Will Metro’s proposed transportation plan get the green light, a caution light or a red light?  Taxpayers will ultimately decide the future of the citywide transit infrastructure network of rails, transit centers and a downtown tunnel to make public transportation a faster, more attractive alternative for residents and visitors to Nashville.

The proposed $5.2 billion infrastructure investment would be funded by a range of fees, including business, sales and tourism taxes. For example, a sales a sales tax surcharge of 0.5 percent for the first five years, increasing to 1 percent in 2023; a hotel/motel tax surcharge of 0.25 percent for the first five years, increasing to 0.375 percent in 2023; a 20 percent surcharge on the business/excise tax; and a 20 percent surcharge on the rental car tax.

The capital cost of the program is estimated to have a present day value of $5,354,000,000, with recurring operations and maintenance costs having a present day value at the year the improvements are completed of approximately $99,500,000. The tax surcharges will end once all debt issued for the program has been paid and Metro Council determines upon the adoption of a resolution that the revenues from the surcharges are no longer needed for operation of the program.

If voters approve the transit improvement program on the May1 ballot, the expansion of transit services will include expanded bus service countywide; new transit lines; new light rail and/or rapid bus service along Nashville’s major corridors, including the Northwest Corridor and a connection through downtown Nashville; new neighborhood transit centers; improvements to train service; safety improvements, including sidewalks and a pedestrian connections; and system modernization.

Metro Councilman Russ Pulley, who supports the transportation plan, said this investment “won’t bankrupt the city. There is flexibility in the plan. Projects will only move forward as funding allows.”

Although the plan is being considered under Mayor Megan Barry’s administration, “this is not Mayor Barry’s plan,” Pulley said, adding that improving Nashville’s transportation infrastructure has been in the works for many years, with support of other mayors, such as Karl Dean and Phil Bredesen.

“The taxpayers have a chance to voice their opinion at the ballot box, as to whether Nashville will be able to provide the multi-modal transportation needed for the city’s growing population,” Pulley added.

Councilwoman Angie Henderson supports the ideas of dedicated funding for improved transportation for Nashville. And while some support the theory of “Go Big or Go Home” strategy, she favors implementing the bus aspect of the plan first because it would “serve more but cost less.” The plan is “front-loaded for the bus system,” and will elevate the quality of bus service, that for many residents is their only option.”

The final vote to put this issue on the May 1 ballot is on Tuesday night’s council meeting that began after The News went to press.

Wanda Southerland
Contributor to The News