August 16, 2016

Franklin Home Page
by Zach Harmuth

Across all sectors and municipalities in Williamson County, the consensus on traffic is that help is needed.

To that end the county government hosted a traffic strategy kickoff meeting Tuesday afternoon in the auditorium of the Williamson County Administrative Complex. The meeting presented the county’s plan for studying traffic in the context of the overall economic, social and developmental picture.

A traffic study, adopted as a draft plan in August by the Williamson County Highway Commission, listed more than 100 road projects necessary by 2030 in order to maintain an acceptable level of service on five main county corridors. It estimated the improvements will cost $150 million.

According to Doug Tennent of AECOM Technology Corporation, the new study, which the county hired consultants AECOM and McBride Dale Clarion to conduct, will take a comprehensive view and create a roadmap for addressing traffic for the county. It should be completed by early 2017.

Mike Matteson, planning director for Williamson County, introduced the team that will conduct the study: Tennant, his colleague Matt Meservy and Greg Dale of McBride Dale Clarion.

“The idea behind this study is to work with this consultant team to identify what our current situation is with respect to traffic, where the problems are, what is the degree of congestion, projected traffic in the future based on trends and our current development policies and, most importantly, develop a specific set of strategies that can help with dealing with these issues in the future,” Matteson said.

Some of the strategies will include finding funding sources, such as an adequate facilities tax on development, and the regulatory process, such as looking at how the county requires developers to undertake improvements, he said.

Also, the study will consider land use, and updating the now nine-year-old county Comprehensive Land Use Plan, in order to fit the changing realities of growth-driven traffic.

“There is a very strong link between traffic and land use, so we feel like there is an opportunity in this process to step back and look at our land use policies and decide as a community whether it is appropriate to revisit some of those as we look comprehensively at this issue,” Matteson said.

Meservy broke down the outline of the study.

The strategic plan elements, he said, include: traffic management, how to integrate the land use plan, a list of prioritized capital projects, funding sources, and legal and regulatory actions.

The plan, also, will create a schedule for implementing its recommendations, and it can be either adopted whole-cloth by the county or simply approved as guidelines for the future.

“It is not only about traffic and just about a land use plant, about creating a list of priority projects,” Meservy said. “We don’t have all the money we need, in the real world, so we have to prioritize. We want to create momentum with the schedule, but don’t want it to be so fast that we leave people behind.”

Currently in the data-collecting stage, Tennant said it will take six to eight months before they present anything finished to the county.

“This is not a small task,” Tennant, who along with Dale and Meservy are Williamson County residents, said. “Traffic in this county, in this region, is a pretty all encompassing thing to think about. So we are going to try to break it down bit by bit through this process and see where we end up.

“We have done this for a lot of years, and there is probably not going to be a silver bullet, a perfect answer that says this is how we are going to solve the traffic problems of Williamson County now and into the future. But what we want to do is create a path forward.”

The study will take a wide scope, but also seek feedback in order to remain feasible.

At the request of the consultants, Matteson and Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson created an advisory council of community leaders and businessmen in order to engage in workshop sessions. The process will also involve interaction with the public through community meetings, the first of which will begin in October at a yet-to-be-determined date, and feedback will be sought from elected county leaders and commissions.

On the background of the presentation, the consultants put an aerial picture of the CoolSprings Galleria and surrounding area when the mall first opened.

“Growth happens day to day, little by little, and if you are not sure of where you want to end up, of where you want to be 10 to 20 years from now, you are going to end up somewhere, and someone is going to look back and say, ‘How in the world did we get here?’” Tennant, who as a young Vanderbilt graduate worked on the zoning for the farmland that would become Cool Springs, said.

“What we are trying to avoid is that sentiment. Twenty years from now we don’t want to be asking, ‘How in the world did we get here?’ We want to start today developing a traffic strategy that works with the Land Use Plan, that works with the plans that the county has, that says, ‘Hey, that is where we are headed, that is where we want to be, now lets figure out a way to get there and not just end up somewhere down the line.’”

The meeting ran as a presentation followed by questions from the attending county commissioners, planning commissioners, county leaders and employees, and any other interested parties.

Anderson asked if the consultants would consider just how the municipalities fit into the puzzle.

“We will try to avoid an us-versus-them mentality, and try to work with them,” Tennant said.

He said he could not provide a more in-depth answer at the time, but that was why they were organizing the study, and looking at what its parameters will need to be.