Mayor Barry says work on light rail has begun, says to ’embrace the future’

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – During her State of Metro address Wednesday morning, Mayor Megan Barry called on the city to “embrace the future.”

The city’s first female mayor discussed Nashville’s transit future while detailing her recommended $2.2 billion fiscal year 2017-18 budget.

“We cannot wait another year to start the process of building our first light rail,” she said. “I’m very happy to announce that today the work begins to create light rail service on the Gallatin Pike corridor.”

Courtesy: The Mayor’s Office

She continued, “I’m excited to have the city start the process of making light rail available to our citizens. I’d drive across the river and put a shovel in the ground this afternoon if I could – and I might just do it anyway.”

Following the recent approval of Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, Mayor Barry announced her intention to work with the Metro Council and community partners to develop and present a transit plan to Nashville voters that include dedicated sources of revenue to build high-capacity transit along the Gallatin, Nolensville, Murfreesboro and Charlotte pikes, along with a northwest corridor from north Nashville to Clarksville.

MORE: Complete State of Metro address

During her address, Barry noted the Gallatin Pike corridor is “an obvious choice to start the process” as it currently has the most transit riders in the region.

“Nashville cannot wait any longer to embrace our future,” she said. “We will be a 21st Century, transit-oriented city, and we are not going to look back 10 years from now and say we failed when we have succeeded.”

“Mayor Barry has once again demonstrated her unwavering commitment to public transportation by focusing on transit projects aimed to improve the quality of life for those living and working in Nashville and throughout Davidson County,” Nashville MTA Board Chair Gail Carr Williams said. “We are very encouraged by her progressive, transit-focused leadership in seeing the vision and goals identified by the nMotion study come to life.”

Mayor Barry also outlined other things in the budget, including more money for public education, such as raises for teachers and administrative staff; an additional $4 million for the Metro-Nashville Police Department, which would help fund dozens of new officers; and nearly $2 million for the Nashville Fire Department, which would fully fund new EMS medic units, among other things.

The mayor also announced she will recommend a new paid family leave policy to the Civil Service Commission that will allow Metro employees to take six weeks paid leave to care for a new child, or seriously ill spouse, child or close relative.

“It’s the right thing to do for the health and well-being of our employees, and it’s the right thing to do for their families,” she said. “It’s also the smart thing to do because, we want to attract and retain the best employees.”

Mayor Barry will release a capital spending plan in May to coincide with the release of her capital improvements budget.

“Growth has brought many exciting opportunities to our city…,” she said.

Wednesday’s State of the Metro address was Barry’s second as mayor. It was held at the plaza outside the Bridgestone Arena.