In January, Tennessee Governor (and Republican) Bill Haslam announced a proposal to increase the state gas tax. According to The Tennessean, Nashville Mayor (and Democrat) Megan Barry is loudly cheering it on — everywhere from the local airwaves to the rotary club.
“Let’s talk about my main priorities: transit, transit, transit,” she said at a luncheon this week, the Tennessean reports.
Of prime interest to Barry is the revenue the tax would generate — and she’s singled out $1.4 billion in projects it could address. She also supports the fact that the governor’s plan would enable Tennessee cities to hold public referendums “to let voters decide whether to impose a surcharge on sales tax to fund public transit projects,” according to the newspaper.
The gas tax, which Haslam pushed during his State of the State address this week, calls for a 7-cent increase on gasoline and a 12-cent increase on diesel, WBIR reports. It would generate upward of $270 million for road and transportation projects, with the average driver paying about $4 more a month, according to the Tennessean.
Last fall, Barry and several other Tennessee mayors embraced a $6 billion regional transit system project that would include light rail, commuter rail and bus rapid transit. That “big vision” (and “big price tag”) haven’t exactly been unanimously popular, as Next City has previously covered.
But many Nashville leaders see a need for change in how residents move around the city. In 2015, a delegation of more than a hundred Nashville civic and business leaders visited Salt Lake City to ride trains, listen to speakers and generally get a read on the Utah region’s relatively efficient system.
“It really is becoming more and more difficult to get around [Nashville],” Steve Bland, CEO of Nashville’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, said after the visit. “We can’t layer on a million more people unless we do something different.”
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian