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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Metro Council approved Mayor Megan Barry’s massive transit plan Tuesday night, sending it to the May ballot for Nashville residents to vote on whether or not they want it.
A council member described the transit plan as the biggest item and investment that’s ever been on the council floor. The debate inside council chambers reflected that.
However, the “Let’s Move Transit” bill was passed with an amendment to change the language of the bill to reflect the real cost of the transit improvement plan. It will tell voters it will cost 8.9 billion in total for the next 14 years, and the annual operating and maintenance cost will be 100 million dollars. It would also make clear that the brunt of the cost would be covered through tax surcharges.
The council debated whether to include the higher price tag but eventually passed the amendment 21-16.
After the bill was passed, the group Transit for Nashville released a statement in which Councilman Jeremy Elrod, who headed up the co-sponsorship for the bill, said it is “an important step forward in giving Nashvillians a voice in their transit future.”
“Our city’s traffic problems aren’t going anywhere, and we need to put a solution in action as soon as possible that alleviates our congestion issues. I look forward to voting for the transit plan on May 1, when I’m confident our city will choose to invest in transit,” Elrod continued.
“Tonight was a victory to everyone in Nashville who is tired of sitting in traffic and missing time with their families. It’s for everyone who wishes our city gave them cheaper, more reliable options to get around,” said Shelley Courington, the associate state director of Advocacy for AARP and Transit For Nashville coalition member.
Nashville MTA also commended the council for recognizing “that mobility constraints in Davidson County have reached a breaking point and that the expansion of public transit service is an important step in addressing this issue that affects all who live, work, and visit Nashville.”
“We look forward to the public weighing in on the Let’s Move Nashville plan this spring. In the meantime, we will continue to work toward implementing improvements and providing safe and reliable service for our riders,” MTA continued.
The NoTax4 Tracks campaign also released a statement from their spokesperson Jeff Eller, who said he’s glad the council sent the plan to the ballot–but for different reasons.
“We believe the Council did the right thing by letting voters decide on the full cost of the $9-billion light rail plan. They will now have the opportunity to understand this plan will result in the highest sales tax in the country and will do nothing to help congestion or traffic on our streets,” Eller said.
Davidson County residents will vote on the “Let’s Move Nashville” transit plan on the May 1 ballot. Early voting is from April 11 to 26.
The plan includes building an underground tunnel downtown, a 26-mile light rail system, and more rapid buses. It will be paid for through a half-cent sales tax hike and surcharge on the business, hotel, and rental tax.