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TDOT Commissioner Says Don't Count on Big Checks

Nashville's ambitious regional transit plan funding will require local sources of revenue

September 27, 2016

Last week, Nashville's Regional Transit Authority and Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved the nMotion plan, a 25-year, $6 billion regional transit plan designed to triple the city's existing system.

Speaking yesterday at a Nashville Chamber of Commerce meeting, Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer cautioned local leaders about nMotion.

"You can talk about it all day long, but it won't get off the ground until local leaders figure out how to pay for it," he said. In 2009, state officials passed Tennessee Senate Bill 1471 (House Bill 1263) that established the legal framework for communities to  work with regional transit authorities to issue bonds and establish other new revenue streams to fund transit expansion.

The nMotion plan is in response to the rapid growth in the Nashville region, expected to reach over 3 million people by 2040. High capacity transit options being considered include light rail and dedicated, possibly tolled, highway express lanes.

Schroer emphasized the words 'local leaders', pointing out the Tennessee DOT will help with infrastructure support but won't be handing out any big checks.

The commissioner also reminded his audience that pay-as-you-go funding doesn't work on large capital expenditures because state funds will not be available for shortfalls.

Transit officials earlier said they anticipate federal funding will pay for much of the project. The Chamber of Commerce is hoping construction will begin by 2020.

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