Local officials are working to address mobility issues by creating opportunities for alternative transportation options in the city.
Metro Nashville officials in March revealed the preliminary redesign for 12th Avenue South, spanning from Ashwood Avenue to north of Division Street in The Gulch. The redesign involves improving bus access and upgrading bike lanes to be protected from traffic along the entire route, a project officials say could begin this year.
The $750,000 project received a priority score of 200 in the city’s rating system—the highest ranking—that considers the area’s roadway characteristics, bicycle demand, constructibility and public support, according to District 17 Council Member Colby Sledge, who represents Berry Hill, Wedgewood-Houston and parts of 12 South.
Following 12th Avenue South on the list is Todd Jr. Boulevard and Buchanan Street, both of which received scores between 150 and 180. According to WalknBike, the city’s long-term plan for sidewalks and bikeways, high priority routes are concentrated in downtown, throughout southeast Nashville and in certain locations to the northeast and east portions of the Nashville area.
“When Metro looked at every potential bike and sidewalk project in Davidson County, 12th Avenue was at the very top of the list,” Sledge said. “It topped the list for the usage the road gets and the area’s ability to support a project of this capacity.”
The 12th Avenue South redesign touches two additional districts in the city, including the southern border of The Gulch and the Belmont-Hillsboro area.
“When you have a project reaching three different council districts, that’s a very high-impact project,” Sledge said. “The great thing about this bikeway is that it’s not some pie-in-the-sky-type project. It’s funded, and its priority was determined by Metro Nashville and its constituents.”
The project is fully financed by Metro Nashville’s capital improvements budget for fiscal year 2017-18 and does not require any legislation passed by Metro Nashville Council, according to Sledge.
Additionally, local environmental nonprofit Cumberland River Compact plans to contribute funds for trees and other greenery, according to Peter Bird, an active transportation planner for Metro Nashville Planning Department.
“We’ve identified several areas where trees can go along the route,” Bird said. “We’ve also determined areas where greenery can potentially go and other areas that are off limits due to water or sewer lines.”
In the spring and summer of 2018, planners discussed the project with neighborhood associations and worked on community priorities, Bird said.
Of the five neighborhood groups surveyed—Envision Edgehill, Belmont-Hillsboro Neighbors, 12 South Home Owners Association, Edgehill Bike Club and Edgehill Coalition—residents reported pedestrian crossing, trees and better bus stop access were most needed in the area. Other features considered included parking, art, traffic calming and speed.
“One thing we’ve heard throughout this process is that residents don’t want [the project]to be just about bike lanes,” Bird said. “It’s also about having better ways to cross the street, better access to bus stops and more trees and other greenery to enjoy along the way.”
The 12th Avenue South redesign is the first coordination project between WeGo Transit, formerly known as Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority, and Metro Nashville Public Works to implement the public transit agency’s new bus stop design, according to WeGo Transit Planning Analyst Justin Cole. The new stops will be located closer to cross walks, which Cole said is safer for passengers getting on and off the bus.
“The bus won’t have to pull off into the bike lane to pick up passengers … that adds protection for both bus riders and cyclists,” he said. “It also gives us plenty of space to add amenities, something we haven’t been able to do because the sidewalk isn’t wide enough in some places.”
With the community engagement process now complete, the Metro Planning Department will spend the next two to three months finalizing the design and getting the project construction ready. Bird said staff will consider all input received at public meetings and adjust the design as needed.
As of March, a construction start date has not yet been announced.
“Although the public engagement process is over, that doesn’t mean we won’t reach out to the community if any significant changes are made,” he said.
However, there is one scenario that could potentially push the majority of work to next spring or summer, Bird said. If the city or state plans to repave 12th Avenue South within the next year, the city will begin with pedestrian crossing improvements and wait for the word to move forward with bike lanes and bus stop improvements. While no plans have been announced to date, Bird said the staff wants to avoid having to repeat any construction work.
“We don’t want to do all our work and six months later, they come in and rip things up,” Bird said. “If not, the goal right now is to do the majority of work by next spring and summer.”