- Nashville Mayor Megan Barry on Tuesday proposed a $5.2 billion transportation plan, which includes a light rail system. The plan also includes a huge tunnel below downtown and a complete revamp of the city's bus system. This is the largest transportation project in the city's history, both in cost and in scope.
- Residents will vote on a referendum in May which, if approved, would increase taxes to pay for the project.
- The plan would be funded with a one-half percent sales tax increase that would increase to 1% in 2023, in addition to increases in the business tax, hotel/motel tax and rental car tax.
The mayor's much-anticipated transit plan is intended to improve residents' quality of life with easier and quicker mobility, plus a reduction in traffic. The overall plan puts a particular emphasis on better serving Nashville's elderly, disabled, youth and disadvantaged citizens.
The light rail system ultimately will have five lines, including one with airport access. Several of the lines would travel into downtown via the proposed $900 million tunnel. New electric buses also would use the tunnel. In addition to the big-ticket items such as light rail and the tunnel, the project would create transit centers throughout the city, which are basically hubs that would ease residents' access to transportation options. Plus, the bus system improvements include adding electric buses, adding additional routes and having buses run more frequently.
Tennessee already has one of the highest sales tax rates in the country, and when the 1% sales tax takes effect in 2023, Nashville's sales tax will rise to 10.25%. That's currently Chicago's sales tax rate, which is the highest in the country. However, Tennessee does not have an income tax, only a 6% tax on interest and dividends, although that tax is slated to end in 2022.
If voters approve the May referendum and the plan moves forward, bus service improvements could go into effect in 2019, with rapid bus service arriving to four of the city's busiest corridors in 2023. The first light rail lines are scheduled to open by 2026 and the entire light rail system is expected to be completed by 2032.