Nashville voters say no to $5.4B transit plan
- Nashville voters overwhelmingly rejected a $5.4 billion plan that would have dramatically expanded the city's mass transit infrastructure, Construction Equipment reported. The project, which would have been complete in 2032, would have been funded by a series of new taxes, and was turned down by 64% of those who voted.
- The Let's Move Nashville initiative, for which former Mayor Megan Barry was a strong advocate, would have seen the addition of five light-rail lines, four rapid bus corridors and a transit tunnel built underneath the downtown. To pay for construction – and an estimated $4 billion extra of operations and maintenance costs – the plan called for an increase in sales, hotel, car rental and business taxes. Opponents of the measure argued that the plan would only benefit downtown Nashville and not the rest of the region.
- However, advocates of the massive plan said it was necessary in order to help alleviate traffic in and around the city, which expects to see one million new residents by 2040. Ralph Schulz, president of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, said it could take as long as a decade to present a new transportation plan to voters.
Many states and the federal government have not increased their gasoline taxes in decades, but they are revisiting those options as they face billions of dollars of infrastructure repairs.
The Let's Move Nashville project would have sought federal funds as well, but financing would have also come through the state's Improve Act, which was signed into law a little more than a year ago. The money generated by the act's new vehicle registration fees and additional taxes on gasoline, diesel, compressed natural gas and liquefied gas has been earmarked to help pay for Tennessee's surface transportation construction backlog of $10 billion. This was Tennessee's first gas tax increase since 1989, and it adds six cents per gallon to the price of gasoline and 10 cents per gallon to the price of diesel fuel over a three-year period.
The federal gas tax provides a revenue stream for the Highway Trust Fund, which allocates money to U.S. states for their surface transportation projects. The tax hasn't seen an increase since 1993, and the suggestion that it be raised has been met with opposition from both parties in Congress.
California, like Tennessee, raised its gas tax to help pay for deferred maintenance and other infrastructure projects. But many residents are resistant to seeing a new tax on gasoline, so there are efforts underway to repeal the surcharge, which went into effect last November. The California tax increased gasoline by 12 cents per gallon and diesel by 20 cents per gallon. Supporters of the repeal have amassed almost 950,000 signatures; only 584,000 are required to get the issue on this November's ballot.
- Construction Equipment UPDATE: NASHVILLE VOTERS REJECT $5.4 BILLION TRANSIT CONSTRUCTION PLAN
Follow Kim Slowey on Twitter