$5.2 billion dollars — that’s how much the Mayor's new transit proposal will cost. It includes light rail, bus rapid transit and an underground tunnel beneath Nashville's already-congested downtown. Funding the most expensive project in Metro history is going take some fancy footwork.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry is asking residents to go to the polls in May and vote on a referendum to approve the massive transit project.
"My hope is that Nashvillians do want to pay for this because they don't want to sit in traffic anymore," says Barry.
The proposal for generating the much-needed revenue would be a one-half percent sales tax hike that would go up another half-percent in 2023. As well as a 20 percent surcharge to the business and excise tax. Barry also proposed increases that would affect visitors: higher taxes on hotels and rental cars.
The plan will take decades, but Barry says the first step is submitting legislation to the Metro Council and asking for approval to add the tax referendum to the May 1st ballot.
The $936 Million, 2-Mile Tunnel
Mayor Barry also confirmed rumors today that Metro’s new transit solution includes a 2-mile tunnel beneath the downtown area.
But official documents show that the tunnel would cost the city nearly a billion dollars, making it the most expensive initiative on the project agenda.
The proposed tunnel would run from the northeastern corner of downtown to the SoBro area with a stop in the middle along Broadway. It would connect the two light rail systems the city wants to put in Nashville’s northern and southern corridors.
Besides helping residents get quicker access to the city’s business and entertainment center, Mayor Barry says the tunnel is just a practicality: there simply isn’t any room in downtown for an above ground system.
“Looking at the streetscape, there’s no way to actually go on top," says Barry. "So the idea was, 'How about we tunnel?'”
Digging underneath downtown’s existing infrastructure would seem to pose a challenge for engineers. But Barry says that the engineers they consulted are all for it.
“They said it’s absolutely feasible," says Barry. "And probably the best way to get people around downtown.”
As for a projected timeline, Barry says the specifics won’t be available until plans to pay for the project are set in stone.