The mayors of the Greater Nashville Regional Council (GNRC) today declared 2020 the Year of Transportation for the region, calling for a sense of urgency among fellow policymakers and the public to address traffic congestion and infrastructure challenges. The mayors announced the initiative as local and state leaders work this year to develop a new Unified Transportation Plan (Unified Plan) to identify and prioritize transportation solutions eligible for federal funding across the mid-State.
A new GNRC report also released today projects that the greater Nashville area population will grow from approximately 2 million people in 2018 to nearly 3.3 million by 2045. The number of jobs is expected to increase by more than 50% over that same time, underscoring the urgency of a regional approach to addressing Middle Tennessee’s infrastructure challenges.
“Every available statistic makes it clear the region must act decisively in 2020 to deal with growing traffic and roadway safety concerns,” said City of Franklin Mayor Ken Moore. “As our region continues to grow, we must work across county lines and in collaboration with the state to find real solutions supported by policymakers and the public.” Mayor Moore serves as chair of the Regional Council’s Mayors Caucus which develops the organization’s annual policy and legislative priorities.
The planning process is being coordinated by GNRC and conducted in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), WeGO Public Transit and other local transit agencies, and city and county governments across the region. It involves studies of key corridors, including the Southern Corridor (I-65) and Downtown Interstate Loop (I-40, I-24, I-65), as well as incorporating local transportation plans and priorities, including the work currently underway across Metro Nashville-Davidson County led by Mayor John Cooper, to ultimately create a single, comprehensive plan for the region.
Cooper, who sits on the GNRC Transportation Policy Board, said the Inner Loop Study will help address long-standing social equity issues in the city, and also exemplifies the regional impact of the city’s infrastructure challenges.
“We are working to build a Nashville for everyone and establishing equity in our transportation and infrastructure systems is crucially important. Folks need to be able to reliably get to job opportunities and other resources,” Cooper said. “We also know that traffic for people trying to get in and out of downtown Nashville is unpredictable, creating problems for the entire region. We need everyone’s voices at the table to ensure equitable solutions.”
GNRC’s new population and employment projections show Davidson County approaching nearly 900,000 residents by 2045, with significant growth occurring throughout the metro area. Transportation policymakers are aware of the impacts this will have on regional commutes as the number of Middle Tennesseans who live in one county – but commute to work in another – will continue to rise. According to GNRC’s new research, in 25 years:
• Williamson County is projected to increase by one and a half times (149%) its 2018 population estimate of 220,000 - growing to more than 555,000 people (or 149%); its employment more than doubling as well.
• Wilson County is expected to be the second-fastest-growing county within the region, seeing a 94% increase population and 73% in jobs.
• Rutherford County is expected to grow by 81%, leapfrogging Chattanooga-Hamilton County as the State’s fourth-largest county by then.
Town of Smyrna Mayor Mary Esther Reed, who chairs GNRC’s Transportation Policy Board, said the planning process comes at a crucial time for a region that has reached a tipping point with traffic. The organization launched www.solvethistogether.org as a resource center for government officials and the public during the process. The public is encouraged to visit the site to learn more about ongoing studies, upcoming meetings, and other ways to get involved.
“We can’t ignore our transportation challenges any longer,” said Mayor Reed. “Past initiatives have fallen short in communicating the importance of a multi-county approach or to get broad enough buy-in from Middle Tennesseans. The process for the Unified Plan will be collaborative, and our job is to work alongside TDOT to bring people together across the region to solve these problems.”