Today is Thursday, August 24, 2017

Make Wilson Countys voice heard in mass transit discussion

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By JOHN McDEARMAN, JERE McCULLOCH and SAM HATCHERIn the past month, communities throughout Middle Tennessee pulled together to help each other out in the wake of the devastating floods. In many cases, it was neighbor helping neighbor, but it was also carloads of volunteers crossing county lines to help out their fellow Tennesseans, wherever help was needed.The floods reminded us that “Nashville” means much more than just Davidson County. We are a 10-county region circling the Nashville metropolitan area, and the decisions and challenges facing Nashville and its surrounding communities affect us all.  That is why Wilson County and each of the counties in our 10-county region should be active participants in the ongoing discussion about mass transit options for our area.Cumberland Region Tomorrow, representing Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Maury, Montgomery, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties, has taken the lead in developing a regional approach to our transit needs. On May 26, they will host their second annual Convening the Region Summit where the Nashville Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) will unveil its 2035 Regional Transportation Plan.The 2035 Regional Transportation Plan will help us establish regional goals, policies and objectives for our multi-modal transportation system over the next 25 years.  It will lay out a strategy to support the economic growth goals of every community in the region while tackling future congestion, pollution and safety concerns and helping to reduce urban sprawl. We began the conversation about regional transit options at last year’s Summit, which resulted in the formation of Middle Tennessee Mayors Caucus and the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee. Both of these groups are looking at the important issues facing our area, including transportation, from a regional perspective. We look forward to continuing that regional approach with this year’s summit as we review the proposals included in the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan. In the coming weeks and months, Wilson County’s input in the plan will be essential. So will the input of every one of the counties in our region.No decisions have been made about the future of mass transit for our region. From light rail to commuter vans, bus rapid transit to expanded HOV lanes, every option should be on the table as we prepare to move forward over the next 25 years. We will not only be looking at the kind of transit that will be most beneficial, we’ll also need to define the roles of federal, state and local government partners and yes, we will have to reach a consensus on how to pay for it.After the Nashville MPO unveils its 2035 plan, it will be hosting public hearings in each of the 10 counties in our region. Cumberland Region Tomorrow will be supporting these hearings by trying to get citizens to attend to learn more and voice their opinions.While 2035 may seem like a long way, consider that it took more than 30 years of input, cooperation and planning for our nation’s interstate system to come into being. If we start now and work together, we can ensure that our regional transit plan will be the 21st century equivalent to the interstate system for every Middle Tennessee community it serves. John McDearman, senior vice president Wilson Bank and Trust; Jere McCulloch, a Lebanon attorney; and Sam Hatcher, The Wilson Post, are board members of Cumberland Region Tomorrow, a non-profit organization that brings people together to address regional challenges and opportunities we face with the future growth and development of Middle Tennessee.
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