|Local officials discuss Lebanon's future in mass-transit|
|Thursday, September 27, 2012|
By SABRINA GARRETT
Lebanon’s future as a transit-oriented community was the main topic of discussion among Mayor Philip Craighead and a gathering of business men and women on Wednesday at the Hearthside Clubhouse.
Craighead told those in attendance that several steps were in the works to achieve this goal, including the construction of Hamilton Springs with a stop for the Music City Star commuter rail service, and possibilities for soft whistles for trains within the city and having a railroad spur ending at the Wilson County Fairgrounds.
Craighead explained that Lebanon has all of the resources, including close proximity to Nashville, to nurture this transit growth. “We have the tools. My question, now, is what do we do?” he asked.
When Craighead became mayor four years ago, he said that about 500 local residents commuted to work via the Music City Star. That number has now increased to 1,200, and with rising fuel costs, he anticipates the number of riders on the train to rise.
Tennessee Department of Transportation Director Liza Joffrion said that a study of the proposal would be “worthwhile.”
Wednesday was only the first in what Craighead hopes will be a series of meetings to discuss the possibilities. “This is only a discussion. We are trying to pick up on people’s experience,” he said.
They also discussed various ways to fund the development. One way could be by applying for and receiving a U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER grant next year. Joffrion said that through this program, $500 million has been provided to 47 projects in 34 states.
“It is extremely competitive. There are many excellent projects out there,” she explained.
Craighead said yesterday that he received a lot of positive feedback at the event. “It was an impressive group of leaders who are excited about the possibilities and effects a better transit system will have on their community,” he said. “If we can come up with a little bit (of funds) and the state chip in too, we might get the numbers that would help us justify what we feel would be a good investment.”
The next step, he said, will be forming a committee and master plan.