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Mayors ask Alliance to shape mid-state mass transit strategy

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Growth causes area to think as a region 

By SAM HATCHERThe Wilson Post

A number of nonprofit organizations are forcing counties in the Middle Tennessee area to begin to rethink positions of independence and an attitude of what’s mine is mine.

Concerns about growth and how growth impacts the daily lives of those who live and work in Middle Tennessee has been a catalyst for much of the discussion that has centered on the topic of “regionalism.”

Cumberland Region Tomorrow, a nonprofit group made-up of representatives from 10 Middle Tennessee counties is just one organization that is looking into and trying to bring attention to and elevate discussions about “regionalism” and specific concerns or issues affecting lifestyles in Middle Tennessee.

Much of the attention given to “regionalism” has been about mass transit. The 2008 U.S. Census reported that Wilson and other Middle Tennessee counties are among the fastest growing counties in Tennessee with population growth recorded ahead of the national average.

Growth in the area has caused and will continue to cause crowded highways and longer commutes to work. The 2008 census shows that it takes longer for Wilson Countians to get to work than many others across the state. The average commute for Wilson Countians, according to the 2008 census, was 29.2 minutes.

But Wilson County, as Cumberland Region Tomorrow notes, is not in a category by itself.

The commute time for workers in many Middle Tennessee counties is continuing to get longer and longer as growth continues throughout the region.

Those directing organizations such as Cumberland Region Tomorrow or the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee point out that no longer are Middle Tennessee counties isolated to themselves.

It’s not unusual for a resident of Lebanon to work in Gallatin, Murfreesboro and for sure Nashville.

And likewise it’s not out of character for someone from Murfreesboro to report to work in Lebanon.

As workers crisscross the mid-state throughout the work week, highways, interstates and many secondary roads are becoming jammed and it’s because there is more traffic now on these roads than ever before.

As Cumberland Region Tomorrow and other similar groups meet, discuss and plan ways to help relieve the stress being placed on Middle Tennessee by growth there is evidence of need for a rethinking by local governments.

What once were only Wilson County’s problems are now problems for Sumner and Smith and Trousdale Counties.

If a worker in Trousdale County is trying to get to his job in Nashville and is being slowed in the commute because of traffic in Lebanon, the problem is of concern to both Trousdale and Wilson Counties.

Traffic issues are also stimulated by an increase in other demands related to growth.

Growth means there are more students in area schools and more parents taking their children to school and therefore more vehicles on the road.

To support growth there is and will continue to be a need for an increase in retail shopping and other commercial services. Again, both will require planning to ensure there are adequate roads or thoroughfares to get patrons in and out of commercial developments without traffic congestion issues.

While a principal concern of regionalism may be transportation, it is not the only concern.

There are issues dealing with health, environment, the economy, poverty, education and other subjects that are also concerns of the Middle Tennessee region.

We are all Wilson Countians.

But we are also all Middle Tennesseans.

And like it or not we all share a kindred spirit in this region.

It is, as we were taught by our former coaches and mentors, “one for all and all for one.”

CEO Sam Hatcher may be contacted at shatcher@wilsonpost.com. 

From Post staff reports

Dealing with growing concerns in Middle Tennessee about commutes that are getting longer as each year passes is a primary focus of a recently created nonprofit organization, according to its chairman, Nashville attorney Charles Bone.

Bone, who heads the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee, told members of the Lebanon Morning Rotary Thursday, that growth in the mid-state region is crowding our highways and causing government leaders to think more seriously about mass transit and other issues of regional concern.

He said that although a final solution to a mass transit plan may be as far off as 25 to 35 years and cost as much as $6 billion, it is time for the area to begin carefully considering the issue.

“I want to accomplish one thing this morning as I speak to you. I want you to place a mass transit concept on your agenda,” Bone said urging his audience to take an interest in learning more about the importance of a mass transit plan for Middle Tennessee.

He explained that the Transit Alliance, an organization launched by the Middle Tennessee Mayors’ Caucus, is looking at ways for Middle Tennessee to establish and fund a mass transit system.

Bone said he had been asked to help coordinate the efforts of the Transit Alliance by Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who he described as having a “keen interest in seeing that a mass transit strategy for all of Middle Tennessee is put into place.”

Bone said the Alliance is composed of public and private sector volunteers whose mission is to develop a plan for funding public transit in the mid-state region. Wilson County, he noted, has been in the forefront of the pipe dream for mass transit in the local area as it was in Lebanon that the state’s first commuter rail got its beginning.

He explained that commuter rail represents only one area of a regional mass transit plan.

He said Dean and other mid-state mayors want to see a strategy established for mass transit that will address current needs and future needs and therefore make the mid-state region competitive with the likes of Denver and other metropolitan areas. He said the region surrounding Denver now represents a population about 2-1/2 million and that the region around Nashville is projected to be near that same size in 10 years. He said it is important that we look at cities and areas like Denver to draw from what has been done there with respect to mass transit so that “we can learn from their experiences.”

Bone identified Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead as being an “important member” of the Alliance. He said Anna-Lee Cockrill of University Medical Center serves also as a member of the organization’s board.

Craighead said after the meeting that Lebanon businessman Jimmy Comer is to be added as a member of the Transit Alliance board along with one other person who will likely come from the Mt. Juliet or West Wilson area.

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