August 17, 2016

Franklin Home Page
by Emily West


New regional transit plan pitches bus-rapid transit for Williamson

Williamson County and Franklin have scarce references in a newly released transit study for the Nashville region, but Franklin’s mayor has a positive outlook on the plan.

The Nashville Metro Transit Authority and Regional Transit Authority worked closely with local municipalities and the Tennessee Department of Transportation to formulate a proposal. In its 36-page plan released Wednesday, nMotion largely focuses on light rail options, commuter rail and a larger bus networking system for the Middle Tennessee region.

The price tag sits at $5.97 billion for the next 25 years worth of suggestions for bettering the area’s traffic. A 30-day public comment period is now in affect. MTA/RTA reached at least 19,000 people during its year long study.

I look at it selfishly because I am the mayor of one of the fastest growing towns in America, but there is a much bigger puzzle than the Franklin piece,” Mayor Ken Moore said.

Moore has worked with the RTA on transit issues for months and pushed forward the issues Franklin dealt with. He said he made sure Franklin had a voice when it came to working out regional solutions to traffic.

“We aren’t going to be left out. We have the southern corridor study of Interstate 65, and I think it will beef up some of the recommendations you see in this plan,” he said. “They have the southeast corridor and the northwest corridor studies already in place. In my mind, the most important corridor is the southern corridor. But people in Murfreesboro will tell you it’s the southeast, and people in Clarksville will tell you it’s the northwestern corridor.” 

nMotion honed in on what consultants comprised for Williamson, including more of the Franklin Transit Authority into its greater network, through a better website effort and overall collaboration. They want to make sure timing is easily available for consumers and better access for residents with disabilities.

Currently, the Franklin Transit Authority partners locally in providing accessibility to the RTA Express Bus Service that runs along I-65 serving Williamson County commuters working in Nashville.

“We are focused on enhancing and expanding our local services to meet the growing needs of our community,” FTA Executive Director Debbie Henry said. “Over the next 12 months, Franklin Transit plans to expand fixed route service into the Cool Springs area and to improve service frequency for the entire fixed route system – both of which will have a positive impact on our local ridership. As the nMotion Transit Plan moves forward, TMA and Franklin Transit will partner with RTA to provide local travel connections with the regional services.”

RTA also aims to have a freeway bus rapid transit, extending from Nashville to Columbia. Buses will travel down the interstate faster than cars within dedicated or managed lanes with stations directly linked to the interstate.

Suggested bus routes to and around Williamson during the next 25 years.

In Williamson’s case, this will mean I-65 will have three different routes – Route 90X Cool Springs Express, Route 91X Franklin Express and Route 95X Spring Hill.

The Franklin Express will run from Nashville to Williamson bilaterally throughout the day. Brentwood discontinued its regional bus service, and the Brentwood City Commission voted this summer not to add a stop at Concord Road along the 91X route.

Moore thinks having a better bus system will lay the ground work for the future, which he believes includes commuter rail. But as for now, the plan emphasized the lack of ability to have commuter rail in Williamson. According to the report, the routes most ideal involve CSX railways, which have trains carrying heavy freight frequently throughout the day.

“A significant amount of desire has been expressed for the development of new commuter rail lines in Middle Tennessee, particularly to Murfreesboro and Franklin/ Spring Hill,” the report reads.

“However, one of the challenges to the development of new commuter rail lines in Middle Tennessee is that the most desirable rail corridors are CSX lines that have very heavy freight traffic. All new commuter rail lines that have been implemented since the 1990s, including the Music City Star, have been developed in rail corridors with low levels of freight traffic or the ability to develop parallel tracks within existing freight rights of way.”

Moore said that wasn’t surprising. He and others talked with CSX in the last five years about the opportunity to use the railway for commuter purposes. The mayo