Commentary: Clement Landport’s an investment that should have waited

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 11:03pm
By Daniel Robbins

Many journalists, investigative reporters and concerned taxpayers have written about the Clement Landport. In 1995, former U.S. Congressman Bob Clement secured approximately $3.6 million for the landport, which was to serve as a transfer point for vanpools, airport and hotel shuttles and commuters.

Today, most reports that describe the landport incorporate a repetitive array of words and phrases such as waste of money, ill-timed, misguided and pork barrel project. In recent years, these descriptions seem to be well justified, considering that this taxpayer-funded lot remains vacant.

A look into the landport’s mismanaged history provides potential reason for its lack of success.

During the time of its construction in 1997, the landport’s contractor reported that chunks of concrete were falling from the Demonbreun Street Bridge. Transportation officials studied the bridge and found problems with its infrastructure, noting that the complete restructuring of the bridge would cost millions. However, the bridge’s serious structural problems were left unsolved, and in 1998 the Clement Landport officially opened.

It wasn’t until 2002 that the state determined the Demonbreun Street Bridge to be unsafe for bus traffic, halting landport operations. In 2004, the bridge was demolished and rebuilt. Interestingly enough, after the demolition of the Demonbreun Street Bridge, 15 buses had to be rerouted, and the landport was effectively rendered obsolete for a period of time.

If structural deficiencies in the Demonbreun Street Bridge were noticed in 1997, why not fix the problem then rather than take potential business away from the landport years later when the bridge was demolished? After all, the bridge is connected directly to the landport, and serves as the only way for buses to access it.

Currently, transportation officials cite the landport as being ahead of its time, and an excellent “investment in the future.” With this thought in mind, one questions the logic behind the construction of the landport way back in 1995. If the landport was built to facilitate the use of various forms of transportation, there must be many forms of transportation readily available at the landport. A few buses and a parking lot certainly do not suffice. The landport was built next to railroad lines, yet there are no trains to transport passengers to and from it!

So, why couldn’t the landport’s construction wait until a well-defined commuter rail system had been developed? Fundamentally, the landport’s current failure serves as yet another reason that transportation officials’ “build it and they will come” attitude is severely flawed. The costly landport should have been built in response to evident consumer demand for such a project, rather than as a way to create demand and bring business to transportation services that weren’t available at the time of its construction.

Today, the vacant parking lot that was supposed to serve as a central hub for regional transportation has aged, and recent estimates have shown that if the landport is to be fully utilized in the future, its upkeep and renovation will cost the city millions of dollars.

Transportation officials and politicians need to consider the burden of such projects on taxpayers before deciding upon any further “investments in the future” built on false promises instead of consumer demand.


Daniel Robbins is a policy intern at the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization dedicated to providing free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee.

9 Comments on this post:

By: idgaf on 10/20/09 at 10:06

Clement is an idiot. He "gave" us the choo-choo train too that is losing money.

Anyone that knows anything about transportation knew it would.

By: pandabear on 10/21/09 at 6:28

The "why" is because some good ole boy stood to make a pile of
cash on that bridge, and there were too many people in on it.

Why isn't the builder held accountable to fix or rebuild the mistake ?

Wasn't there insurance on the bridge construction ?

How could it pass inspection with "chunks" falling off ?

Someone must have been paid to make that happen.

By: JeffF on 10/21/09 at 7:13

The problem once again lies in the disproved theory that all public transportation facilities should be centered on a "vibrant downtown" instead of in the communities where people live and work. The Landport is not the only failed transportation system dedicated to a thinly populated downtown.

Transportation is a necessity in the lives of people. No one can stay at the house everyday. But in Nashville and a whole slew of U.S. cities, transportation has been hijacked by the urban renewal folks who want to use it as a tool to create the downtowns they dream of. The transportation facilities they create are thus more expensive and oddly enough less utilized. But they sure look good for the initial photo ops and ribbon cuttings. Yet neourbanists just cannot bring themselves to admit that they cannot cram their city into the same hole as the big cities they admire. Meanwhile sprawl worsens as the money that would be used to serve neighborhoods already in-place is channeled instead into a beautified, tourist-friendly, but-still-dead core.

By: sidneyames on 10/21/09 at 7:37

panda couldn't we say the same type of things regarding a billion dollar convention center, a new gov-ment hotel and expanding the country music hall of fame?

The bus system is a joke in N'ville and surrounding suburbs. I rode it one time from Hickory Hollow to downtown. The bus driver argued with 2 passengers; scared me to death cause I was afraid she would provoke them to a civil disturbance. (by the way, she was rude and wrong in arguing).

The bus was never full. It took too many little detours off the main route and took too long to complete the trip. So I don't take the bus; apparently neither do most Nashvilllians/surburb dwellers.

Oh, I forgot, Karl Dean takes the bus occasionally when it renders him a photo op.

By: Kosh III on 10/21/09 at 8:56

MTA has tried routes which do not go downtown, they failed.

btw, I take the bus to work all the time, right down Gallatin Rd. Aside from the rude and noisy school kids in the afternoon(what a surprise LOL ) it's fine.

How is a rude rider different from a rude driver?

By: courier37027 on 10/21/09 at 11:56

To Mr. Robbins, amen. I have been saying this all along. Add landport to a long list of Nashville's "can't miss" prospects: American Airlines non-stop flights to London, City Lights Festival (circa late-80's), supercollider bid. For business as usual and what will be precursor for our convention center, our city has "gotta have this" =itis because of no other reason than empty promised of expected financial windfall. Weren't the Titans supposed to save schools and tourism because so many people would come to Nashville and stay in hotels? When studies showed most fans would commute on game day, even many out-of-towners..

By: JeffF on 10/21/09 at 3:33

But Courier we have "a brand" we must protect! :O)

By: sidneyames on 10/22/09 at 6:37

How is a rude rider different from a rude driver?
Kosh, the only way I see it's different is your reaction. You or others are a capative audience to a rude rider, but in the case of rude driver, you can always take another route, pull off at a convenience store, get gas or go to Micky D's for a quick snack.

Seriously, I'd love to ride the bus, but they don't run very well in Antioch.

I worked in DC for years; sold my car after 6 months and took mass transport (in the 70's); save a ton of money and hassel.

By: idgaf on 10/22/09 at 7:22

This city is not conducive to mass transportation.

In order to have it you need the mass going to one spot and we don't have that and never will.