The Nashville office of planning and engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff will look to, among other cities, Charlotte and Seattle as it crafts a transportation study of the Broadway-West End corridor.
Last week, the Metro Transit Authority announced it had selected the firm, which is based in New York City and got its start in 1885 developing the Big Apple’s subway system, to conduct what could be a 12-month “alternative analysis” to identify preferred transportation options for the corridor.
It is the first step in positioning Nashville to receive federal dollars for a potential urban streetcar, light rail line or bus rapid transit, officials said. The Broadway-West End corridor, which runs east to west from the Central Business District to Midtown, is one of the city’s busiest and most prestigious stretches.
“We will conduct a peer review that will draw on the experiences of other cities when implementing transit,” said Michelle Kendall, who works in the PB Nashville office and will serve as principal in charge on the project. Charlotte-base Lynn Purnell is the project manger for PB.
“Representatives from peer cities that have successfully implemented similar transit systems will visit Nashville and provide their insights into potential opportunities and challenges based on their experience,” Kendall added.
MTA secured a $1.18 million federal grant and matched it with $437,800, some monies of which will fund the study. Full-scale work should begin this month.
Of note, the Parsons Brinckerhoff office is located within the 1900 block of Church Street in Midtown.
“The PB team has a strong familiarity with the corridor from having worked and lived in the area for many years,” Kendall said. “We have done preliminary field reconnaissance, but the official study is just beginning.”
Parsons Brinckerhoff has done similar work — often involving street cars — internationally and in various U.S. cities, including Cincinnati, Denver, Little Rock, New York City, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Portland, Seattle and Salt Lake City.
Kendall said it is important to create a more direct connection between downtown and what many generally refer to as the city’s “West End.”
“Both are important employment, cultural, educational and residential areas in their own right, but their close proximity provides the potential for synergy should they be tied together through enhanced transportation connections,” she said. “Not only is the transit connection important, but in keeping with the ‘complete streets’ philosophy, the land use/urban design between downtown and the West End can also assist in creating a sense of connectedness that is not currently fully realized.”
Kendall said the project is being focused strictly on the densely urbanized downtown and Midtown, noting “civic dialogue is supportive of growing the urban character of the core.” Focus groups will be involved in the effort, she added.
Kendall referenced Forbes magazine’s recent ranking of Nashville as the nation’s “fifth most affordable city.”
“Nashville continues to grow and attract young professionals who value a vibrant city and urban amenities such as transit options,” Kendall said. “The development and change in and near the West End corridor is the embodiment of this dynamic change and growth — and proof that access to the West End and the downtown are strong development draws. Transit in this corridor needs to catch up. That is what this project will set out to accomplish.”
Kendall said the goal is to complete the study by the end of fall of 2011.