Amp Critics Continue to Attack Center Lanes, Despite Compromise

Richard Fulton at an Amp advisory meeting on Tuesday.

Richard Fulton at an Amp advisory meeting on Tuesday. Credit: Bob Hartline

The Amp’s advisory committee met Wednesday for an update on the project, after things like minor station adjustments and engineering tweaks are now being applied to the design. But Amp critics, most notably real estate manager Richard Fulton, son of the former mayor, used the meeting as an opportunity to take shots at the planned 7-mile bus rapid transit line.

Fulton said, as a general matter, he’s a mass transit advocate. When it comes specifically to the Amp, however, he can’t throw his support behind it. “They just did a haphazard way of designing this, and not taking into consideration a lot of things they should’ve taken into consideration,” he said.

For instance, Fulton opposes any use of center lanes.  He argues that left turns could became complicated with the Amp’s dedicated lane, which he thinks would hurt sales for businesses along the route. And the construction time while the center lanes are being built has elicited concern from businesses as well, he thinks.

Amp spokeswoman Holly McCall said when it comes to left turns, drivers have nothing to worry about.

“We’re pleased Mr. Fulton is offering constructive comments to improve the route, but drivers will still be able to turn left at signalized intersections,” McCall said. “West End will function much the same way drivers access businesses in Cool Springs, which has divided highways with medians. And businesses there seem to be flourishing despite limited left turns.”

Real estate investor Bert Matthews, who chairs the advisory committee of stakeholders and citizens along the route, said the meetings are not about high-level discussions about whether or not the Amp is right for Nashville. Instead, Mathews said it’s about building a consensus about the route.

For those like Fulton, though, being part of the consensus doesn’t seem likely.

“My hope is that, at the end of the day, we go about it the way we should and that’s putting together a regional plan for mass transit with a dedicated source of funding and move forward at the point, instead of having a bandage approach on the front end.”

Amp supporters counter that the Metropolitan Planning Organization has indeed put together a regional transportation plan going out two decades. As is often stated, city officials see the Amp as a sort of the first stage, or “the spine,” of a years-long transportation system.

Pushing for a dedicated funding source is something transit advocates in Nashville have long endorsed. Cities like Denver, Austin and Charlotte all have dedicated funding sources for mass transit. Without it, transit projects rely on funding from general budgets, and advocates say that creates too much uncertainty in terms of planning long-term projects.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization has more on dedicated funding here.

The Amp’s federal funding requires that the bus run at least half of the time in car-free lanes. Some of those dedicated lanes will be in the center of the street. Planners say this speeds up how quickly people get around.

After some community pushback and the state legislature getting involved, city planners redesigned portions of Amp’s route into regular traffic, while still maintaining enough bus-only lanes to keep the federal dollars.

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