|Improvements sought at MC Star Martha Station; ridership increases|
|Friday, March 23, 2012|
By JENNIFER HORTON
Transportation officials are working on a way to make railroad traffic more efficient and have requested federal funds to construct a passing siding at the Music City Star commuter train’s Martha Station to accommodate more trips to and from Lebanon possible.
The request for $1.2 million in federal funds was made recently by the Regional Transportation Authority and was submitted to the Metropolitan Planning Organization for approval.If approved, the RTA would then match the federal funds with $300,000, making the total $1.5 million. The project would allow a train to pull over and let another one pass when necessary at the Martha Station.
“It would make operating the trains more efficient,” said Patricia Harris-Morehead, director of communications for RTA.
She noted the Music City Star is at present “a push and pull system” in that it travels to and from Nashville and Lebanon each day on one track, never turning around, which is why it can be seen moving in what appears to be in reverse down the tracks even though it isn’t.
“It would be big news if we’re successful” in being awarded the grant, she added.
The request for federal funds was one of six made to the MPO, a federally designated transportation planning agency, that includes on its board elected officials from five counties including Wilson, Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner and Williamson, and parts of Maury and Robertson.
MPO officials are expected to make a decision on recipients of the federal dollars sometime in May.
In the meantime, more and more people are discovering public transportation and the Music City Star for their transportation to and from work each day.
Harris-Morehead said ridership on the commuter train is going “very well” and continues to increase.
She noted that in January 2012, monthly ridership on the train was 21,850 trips, while in January 2011, the monthly ridership was 19,211 trips.
“You can see what kind of an increase we’ve had,” she said, adding it was about a 14 percent increase for the first month of this year from the first month of last year.
For fiscal year January 2011 to fiscal year January 2012, she said, ridership on the commuter train increased to 25.7 percent, almost 26 percent. Monthly trips in that same time frame rose from 128,542 in fiscal year beginning January ’11 to 161,594 to fiscal year beginning January ’12.
“It’s continuing to increase, which is a good thing,” Harris-Morehead said, adding that she believes the public is realizing the benefits of public transit as gasoline prices continue to rise and traffic continues to grow on main roads leading to and from Nashville.
Workers may choose to seek relief from traffic as work is expected to begin sometime this year on widening 4.7 miles of Interstate 40 from Mt. Juliet Road/Highway 171 to Highway 109 to eight lanes. Surveyors have been out along the roadway in recent weeks.
She noted, also, the convenient locations of the train stations, particularly the one in the Martha Community, off Highway 109 between Lebanon and Mt. Juliet, which also have train stations.
Federal stimulus money was used a couple of years ago to complete the Martha Station, and Harris-Morehead said it was a great location for those who live between Lebanon and Mt. Juliet to catch the train in the morning to head to work.
(Other stations are located in Hermitage, Donelson and at Riverfront Park in downtown Nashville.)
“I ride occasionally. You just can’t beat the service,” she said.
Harris-Morehead said ridership has increased also for RTA’s express bus service that it offers to commuters in addition to that of the Music City Star. The overall increase for both transportation services combined is more than 30 percent.