Metro’s effort to fully incorporate a complete streets program has been slightly delayed, with the Metro Public Works Department asking that the Tennessee Department of Transportation finalize answers to questions regarding federal funding before a key document is approved.
Originally, the Metro Planning Commission was to have voted on the complete streets document — called Mobility 2030 and the Major and Collector Street Plan — at its Feb. 24 meeting. But public works officials asked for a deferral. A vote on the Metro Planning Department-crafted document is scheduled for the department’s commission on April 14.
Mark Macy, assistant director of public works, said the department was advised by TDOT — through which federal funding flows to Metro government — that it risked possibly losing federal funding had the plan been implemented on, specifically, any one of eight streets.
For example, Mobility 2030 recommends that Korean Veterans Boulevard contain four lanes from First to Eight avenues. The previously approved environmental documents (finalized before Mobility 2030 was done) called for a six-lane road. Public Works will design the KVB segment from Fourth to Eighth avenues with four travel lanes but with the future option of converting two parking lanes to travel lanes.
The other seven streets are Harding Place, Bell Road, Hermitage Avenue, First Avenue, Charlotte Pike, Ashland City Highway and State Route 100.
“When we are using federal funds on a project, we try to avoid a conflict with funding,” Macy said. “We asked the commission to listen to us to make some technical edits on corrections to eight roads. We agree with the complete street principals.”
Macy said public works, TDOT, the planning department and the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization have since worked through most of the outstanding issues.
Metro Public Works Department has had a complete streets program in place since 2008, but some critics of the department have noted inconsistencies with program applications and a lack of coordination between various government entities.
Last October, Mayor Karl Dean signed an executive order formalizing complete streets – which considers all modes of transit and not just cars — as an official Metro policy.
Mary Beth Ikard, MPO communications director, referenced MPO’s 2035 Regional Transportation Plan, as adopted in December by the mayors of area cities. The plan contains a multitude of policy statements and strategies for project investment that amount to a complete streets approach to Middle Tennessee's transportation system.
“But on-the-ground implementation of complete streets is very much a local issue, and so our plan provides incentives for local governments to formally incorporate that consideration of all potential users of their streets when they go to build a new road, resurface or add capacity to an existing road — particularly if they want to apply to us for federal funds to make these types of improvements,” Ikard said. “It’s good timing, then, for Metro planning to update their Major and Collector Street Plan with the inclusion of complete streets design considerations.”
Regarding the effort, the Metro Planning Department has had one work session and has scheduled another for March 24 (2:30-3:45 p.m. in the Nash Room of the Metro Office Building). The session is open to the public, with details on the department’s website.