The city of Nashville learned this week that it had been passed over for a federal transportation grant that could have led to better mass transit on the Dickerson Pike corridor, which officials have pointed to as a potential model for other parts of the city.
The federal BUILD funds are highly competitive nationwide. One other Tennessee community, Spring Hill, was chosen this year. A $25 million grant will cover the bulk of the cost of creating a new interchange and exit along I-65, allowing officials to extend Buckner Road on the north end of the city.
A Metro spokesman said Nashville will apply again next year.
Officials still believe Dickerson Pike is one of the city’s best chances of creating an area that isn’t car-dependent — that with the right planning, rapid bus service could shuttle people between that area and downtown.
In applying for federal funds, officials said the corridor is already seeing a combination of population and job growth, with decent existing bus ridership. And the road itself is wide enough for dedicated bus lanes.
The grant would have paid for a study of so-called “smart growth” ideas, like how to create dense, affordable development that is intentionally linked with better bus service.
In all, Metro said it needed $2.3 million for its study. Just over $800,000 would have been local funds.
In a statement, the mayor’s office says it is “disappointed” at missing out this time, but is still committed to bringing transit and development to Dickerson Pike. The statement also points to progress on upgrading the city bus flee, and the launch of a “transportation demand management” program, or TDM, that works with downtown employers to encourage commuting by means other than personal vehicles.
Yet the missed grant opportunity does follow other transportation setbacks, including the defeat of the city’s mass transit funding referendum in May, and the Metro Council’s rejection of a transit-oriented development in Donelson.