State legislation that many consider one of the first steps toward creating dedicated funding for mass transportation in Tennessee was filed earlier this month.
The enabling legislation, sponsored in the House by Rep. Janice Sontany (D-Nashville) and in the Senate by Sen. Joe Haynes (D-Goodlettsville), would potentially accomplish two things.
First, it would allow other major municipalities in Tennessee to establish their own Regional Transportation Authority, like the one already in place for Middle Tennessee.
It would then allow a local RTA to take one of two routes in order to establish a dedicated funding source for regional transportation. An RTA could take a dedicated funding proposal to voters for a referendum, or it could ask a local legislative body like Metro Council to pass a law created a new funding source for mass transit.
Greg Adkins, who serves as president of the Tennessee Public Transportation Alliance, said the legislation was the “first tool in the tool box” to create dedicated funding for mass transportation in the Nashville area.
Mayor Karl Dean has expressed interest in expanding and improving Nashville’s mass transit system ever since he was campaigning for office in 2007.
“As Nashville and Middle Tennessee have grown, expanding mass transit to the regional level has become a priority from a quality of life, economic development and environmental standpoint,” Dean said. “We need to move forward with regional transportation planning and I see this enabling legislation as a first step in that process. Regional cooperation and dedicated funding are required to receive necessary state and federal dollars for a project like this.”
The Nashville Area Metro Planning Organization is conducting an update to its regional master plan, which should be ready for release early next year. That plan, which has solicited extensive public input since last year, will include cost estimates for mass transit options in the Nashville area.
“The pending legislation represents an important first step towards ensuring this region is competitive for federal funding for mass transit,” Nashville MPO Executive Director Michael Skipper said. “But most importantly, it is a reflection on our growing regional commitment to building a multi-modal transportation system for improved regional mobility, environmental sustainability, and economic prosperity into the future.”
Officials have said it's too soon to speculate what the source of the dedicated funding might be at this time, because economic conditions impact the feasibility of certain options.
The legislation was referred to committees last week.