Middle Tennessee Connected - Regional Transportation Plan

The official regional transportation plan for the Nashville metropolitan area adopted by area mayors and transportation officials in February 2021.



A Unified Plan for Transportation Improvements Adopted by Mayors and Transportation Officials


This report was funded by grants from the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration, and with contributions from the TN Dept of Transportation and local government members of the GNRC. GNRC does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, limited English proficiency, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, creed or disability in admission to, access to, or operations of its programs, services, or activities. Complaints or requests for accommodation should be directed to GNRC’s Non-Discrimination Coordinator at 220 Athens Way, Ste 200, Nashville, TN 37228 or 615-862-8863.

The Regional Transportation Plan is Middle Tennessee’s Gateway to Federally-Funded Transportation Projects and Services. Represents the Region’s Shared Vision for State and Federal Funds Prepared by the Greater Nashville Regional Council (GNRC), the Regional Transportation Plan (Plan or RTP) spans the next quarter century and represents the collective transportation goals of municipal and county governments, public transit agencies, county highway departments, and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). Its purpose is to identify how those partners intend to improve mobility across Davidson, Maury, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson, and Wilson counties with recurring federal grants. In addition, the Plan also represents the region’s top priorities for state funding as the Tennessee Governor and TDOT prepare the annual work programs for the Tennessee General Assembly. A Fiscally-Constrained Plan The Plan includes a balanced budget. It presents a list of projects and programs scheduled for implementation between 2021 and 2045 with more than $10 billion in anticipated federal grants and State or local matching funds over the next 25 years. However, in order to speed up project delivery and to address more of our transportation challenges, leaders at all levels of government should consider options to plug the growing gap between revenue and rising cost . Keeps TDOT and Local Agencies Eligible for Federal Funding Since the 1960s, federal law has required that all metropolitan regions across the United States develop a regional transportation plan in order to maintain eligibility for federal programs. These plans are updated every four or five years to account for shifts in national policy as well as local community issues and concerns, growth and development patterns, travel behaviors, advancements in technologies, and fluctuations in funding availability. This Plan serves to satisfy federal regulations outlined in Title 23, Part 450 of the Code of Federal Regulations (23 CFR 450) and ensures that TDOT, transit agencies, and local governments are eligible to use federal transportation funds to construct or implement improvements to roadways and transit routes.

What’s in the Plan? 02 Current State of Transportation 04 What will the Future Look Like? 08 Plan Recommendations 16 Stay Involved 24 What’s Inside?

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 - Introduction and Plan Highlights Describes the purpose of the plan, federal requirements, and the role of the Greater Nashville Regional Council in convening local, state, and federal officials to develop the plan. Chapter 2 - Regional Collaboration Describes how the region is organized to carry out a regional transportation planning process and the role of the general public in shaping transportation priorities. Chapter 3 - Trends and Performance Identifies keys issues and concerns that the Plan sets out to address and showcases regional trends related to population and employment, land development, traffic congestion, roadway safety, and other important facets of the transportation system. Chapter 4 - Policy Guidance Describes the decision-making authority of the region’s Transportation Policy Board and the policy framework to guide its decisions. The framework includes a set of regional goals, objectives, and strategies that align with national policies and State initiatives. Chapter 5 - Needs and Priorities Provides an overview of transportation needs for the region and the process used to evaluate and prioritize projects for the anticipated funding that will be available to address those needs over the next 25 years. Chapter 6 – Implementation and Monitoring This executive summary report presents key highlights of the Regional Transportation Plan adopted in 2021. The complete document, available online at GNRC.org, is organized into six chapters and a series of technical appendices.

Provides an overview of ongoing opportunities for community engagement, a description of the project implementation process, a set of strategies to mitigate potential impact to vulnerable populations or environmental quality, and a means by which the region can monitor its progress towards achieving its transportation goals. Technical Appendices A profile of the region’s existing transportation assets, the detailed lists of funding recommendations for projects scheduled between 2021 and 2045, and documentation of the planning process, data sources, and assumptions.





The following presents characteristics of the current transportation system across Davidson, Maury, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson, and Wilson counties, along with present-day performance with respect to daily travel, roadway safety, and physical conditions. GNRC and its planning partners use a variety of indicators to evaluate the state of the transportation system.

For access to more regional data visit GNRC.org/Dashboards.

1.3 MILLION 1.9 MILLION Licensed drivers* Registered motor vehicles

Residents 1.7 MILLION 1.2 MILLION Occupied jobs

36.6 Total vehicle miles traveled per person, per day 38 Percent of area travel is along congested roadways Miles traveled on major roadways each day 58 MILLION

Average travel speed along major roadways 42 MPH 68 MINS Spent traveling each day per person

Bridges in the region 1,600+

50% Percent of bridges that are in fair or poor condition


KEY TAKEAWAYS There are more than 13,000 miles of roadways throughout the seven-county transportation planning area. That’s about the same distance one would cover by driving from Nashville to New York City to Los Angeles and back, twice. Of those roadway miles, nearly 3,000 miles nearly 3,000 miles are considered major roadways and are eligible for federal transportation grants made available through the Regional Transportation Plan. Even though pedestrians are involved in less than one percent of all vehicular crashes in the region, they are disproportionately impacted by their severity. The number The number of pedestrian deaths has risen sharply in recent years and today represent about 18 percent of all traffic fatalities. In just the five years between 2015 and 2019, the number of pedestrian fatalities nearly doubled, from 25 to 44 deaths.

73,355 Roadway crashes in 2019


Crashes resulting in serious injuries or fatalities in 2019


Traffic fatalities in 2019


Pedestrian fatalities in 2019


SEVEN Miles of major roadways that have sidewalks P ercent of major roadways have bicycle facilities

35,000 Daily transit trips


3,000 Miles of roadway Miles of major roadways

One-way trips per capita each day 3.98


Current Transportation Assets Roadways and Bridges

Controlled Intersections

Bridge Locations

Roadway Network

~ ~ ~ ~

State Owned City Owned County Owned Federally Owned

State Owned City Owned County Owned Federally Owned

Traffic Signal Flashing Light Stop Sign

Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities

Greenways and Multi-Use Pathways

On-Road Bicycle Routes

Sidewalk Network


Transit Routes Public Transportation

Rail Station and Park-n-Ride

Local Bus Stops

~ ~ ~~ ~

RTA Nashville MTA Franklin Transit Authority Murfreesboro Rover Mule Town Trolley

Nashville MTA Franklin Transit Authority Murfreesboro Rover Mule Town Trolley

Commuter Rail Station Express Bus Stop Carpool/Vanpool/ Park-n-Ride

Freight and Rail


Rail Lines

Water Ports

Commercial and Freight Operations General Aviation and Light Freight

~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~

CSX Transportation* Nashville Eastern Rail Authority** Nashville Western Rail Authority** Tennessee Southern Rail Authority** *Private **Public

Major Water Body Navigable Waterway River Port Intermodal Port



Shift in Lifestyle Preferences National trends show both younger and older generations have a growing preference for homes with smaller yards located in more walkable communities that have access to good transit service. This shift in market preferences is beginning to be visible throughout Middle Tennessee, but many more residents are expected to favor mixed-use communities in the future as they look to live close to jobs, restaurants, shopping, and other quality of life amenities. Higher Cost of Living Once a major strength of the Nashville region, recent increases in housing costs have reduced discretionary income and resulted in too many long-term residents being displaced from their neighborhoods. In Middle Tennessee, the average resident spends more than half of their income on housing and transportation costs, a number that exceeds the national definition for being cost burden. This trend is expected to continue as property within existing communities becomes more expensive. It is important that regional leaders understand the role that transportation decisions play in either exacerbating or alleviating affordability issues. A Lot More Traffic Traffic volumes and roadway congestion have risen sharply in recent years due to Middle Tennessee’s growing economy. With a history of sprawling land development patterns and long cross-county commuting, today’s residents have very few options to get around that congestion. By 2045, traffic volumes are expected to increase by 26 percent resulting in a 14 percent reduction in average travel speeds and a doubling of the amount of travel occurring withing congested conditions. To enable additional economic expansion, many metropolitan areas have turned to better rapid transit options to give residents convenient alternatives to sitting in traffic congestion. Better Technology and Greener Energy It is hard to envision the future without thinking about the emergence of new technologies. Electric- powered and autonomous vehicles are the face of the transportation technology revolution, but technological innovations in communications, traffic management and operations, and data analytics will lead to cleaner, safer, and more reliable options for the future.

A Lot More People Nashville and the surrounding counties have added approximately 30,000 people per year since 2010 and the region is poised for continued growth over the next two decades. By 2045, the seven-county area will grow in population by an additional one million people, making it larger than the present-day Denver metropolitan area. Increasing Diversity The cultural diversity of a region is a hallmark of its potential for ingenuity and economic competitiveness. Over the next 25 years, the racial minority population is expected to increase at a faster rate than the total population. By 2045, nearly 4 out of 10 Middle Tennesseans will identify as a non-white minority or as Hispanic. In addition, the number of senior adults living within the region is expected to double to nearly a half million by 2045. As the region’s demographics diversify and age, it is essential to understand how transportation needs will shift as a result.

The Nashville metropolitan area is expected to

approach 3 million people by 2045.


HOW WILL COVID-19 IMPACT TRANSPORTATION NEEDS? The COVID-19 public health crisis has led to dramatic changes in travel decisions and traffic patterns as a result of widespread telecommuting, increased demand for home delivery services, and a surge in walking and bicycling. The pandemic has caused financial strain on households, businesses, and public agencies, but it also has spurred new ideas and innovation. While the long-term impacts of COVID-19 are not yet known, transportation planners are paying close attention to the economic rebound and shifts in travel behavior that may lead to new trends. Community leaders must be willing to adapt to a future shaped by the long-term impacts of the global pandemic.


Trends and Forecasts

Performance measurement is an important part of transportation planning, not only because it enriches the decision-making process, but also because it provides a measure of accountability to the public by ensuring that planned investments achieve community- based goals. The information on this page offers a glimpse into the future as the region continues to grow. Data depicts the expected changes in transportation performance between 2020 to 2045. Policymakers should evaluate investment scenarios to assess how well they will improve the metrics that matter most to people.





14% 41%






KEY TAKEAWAYS As Middle Tennessee continues to grow, so too will daily roadway volumes and traffic congestion. Despite GNRC’s projection that area residents will drive fewer miles per capita as new development provides opportunities for people to live closer to where they work, shop, and play, regional traffic congestion will regional traffic congestion will continue to increase as more people and vehicles pile on area roadways. Even without any additional service, transit ridership is expected to increase by 41 percent over the next 25 years as more people and jobs are located closer to existing routes. The popularity of transit will be even greater as new transit options become available. The Regional Transportation Plan promotes more frequent service, dedicated lanes to offer a more reliable and congestion-free experience, and improved walkability between transit stations and final destinations.


Trends and Forecasts

Statewide Growth Trends 2020 to 2045

More than half of the state’s population growth between 2020 and 2045 is expected to occur in Nashville-Davidson County and six surrounding Middle Tennessee counties. Rutherford and Williamson counties are each on pace to leapfrog Chattanooga-Hamilton County on the list of most populous counties during that time.

1.9 Million Additional People Statewide 1 Million (51%) in Nashville and Surrounding Counties

Regional Land Development Patterns



Based on GNRC’s land development model.


Vehicles Per Day





Based on GNRC’s travel demand model.

Extent of Reccuring Traffic Congestion




Trends and Forecasts

Vehicle Crash Locations 2015 to 2019

Bike Crashes

Truck Crashes

Pedestrian Crashes

Bridge Conditions

Fair Condition Poor Condition


All Crashes

Fatal Crashes

Bicycle & Pedestrian Level of Service

Pedestrian LOS

Bicycle LOS









During the early stages of developing the Regional Transportation Plan, GNRC worked with community leaders and transportation officials to develop a policy framework to guide key decisions along the way. That framework includes a set of regional goals, objectives, strategies, and performance measures that offer a clear path to realizing the region’s long-term vision for success.

Long-Term Vision

Reimagined Corridors with Integrated Technology Reinvestment in existing roadways will maximize the benefit of limited transportation dollars and ensure that infrastructure is not overextended beyond the region’s ability to maintain a state of good repair. Emphasis should be placed on bringing roadways to design standards and integrating technologies to improve traffic operations and real-time travel information.

Expanded and Modernized Transit Options It is critical that the region place significant emphasis on improving public transit in the years to come. This will provide alternatives to congested roadways, and ensure Middle Tennessee remains a livable marketplace that can compete on a national and global scale.

More Active and Walkable Communities People are demanding safer and more walkable streets. Investments in infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists will enhance local commerce, foster healthier lifestyles, and serve as the backbone for transit expansion.


Goals and Objectives


The foundation of any successful transportation plan is a commitment to keep existing roadways, bridges, and transit systems in good operating condition.

Reducing the risk of life, personal injury, and property damage due to traffic incidents is of utmost importance to policymakers. The Plan prioritizes efforts that help reduce crashes even as more people walk, bicycle, drive, and scooter around the region. Often an indicator of economic success, traffic congestion can escalate quickly and hamper quality of life. The Plan takes a balanced approach by alleviating bottlenecks when possible and expanding multimodal options to allow people to move freely despite congestion. The Nashville area is thriving, but economic prosperity is not even. Transportation investments that help attract outside investment should also connect long-time residents to jobs that help lift families out of poverty or allow them in live in the neighborhood of their choice. The Plan embraces continued economic growth but looks to do its part to prevent sacrificing the region’s natural beauty or environmental quality. In addition, the Plan seeks to ensure that benefits gained from investment should be distributed equitably among an increasingly diverse population. Middle Tennesseans expect public agencies to address their challenges by working together across political boundaries and throughout all levels of government. The Plan strives to ensure that plans are coordinated and mutually beneficial.







Core Strategies The transportation issue is too big and complex for any one organization or governmental agency to solve alone. To achieve the transportation goals identified in the Plan, the region will need to work together across jurisdictional boundaries, economic sectors, and political persuasions to deploy a diverse array of strategies to address existing and emerging challenges.

The Plan identifies several strategies and actions that can be put to work over the coming years.

Adopt a Fix-It First Approach that Reinvests in Existing Infrastructure

Encourage a Combination of Projects, Incentives, and Regulations to Reduce Transportation Costs for Freight Carriers, and Minimize the Impacts of Heavy Truck and Rail on the Urban Core and Surrounding Communities

Focus Short- and Mid-Term Investments on Complete Streets and the Deployment of New Technologies to Improve Safety, Traffic Operations, and Traveler Information


Increase Coordination between Transportation and Economic Development Decisions to Better Align Public and Private Investment Engage the Public in New and Innovative Ways, including Creative Placemaking, to Enhance Community Buy-In and to Minimize Impacts of Construction on Neighborhoods

Establish Consensus to Fund and Implement Projects of Regional Significance including Multi-Modal Upgrades to Key Corridors and Major Improvements to the Aging Interstate Loop Around Downtown Nashville


Funding Recommendations

$2.9 Billion Short-Term Priorities

$4.0 Billion IMPROVE ACT Projects

$1.6 Billion Road Reconstruction and Multimodal Upgrades Funding to reconstruct existing roadways to remove traffic bottlenecks, improve safety, or Funding to further develop projects currently identified in the region’s FY 2020-2023 Transportation Improvement Program.

$513 Million Dedicated to Modernize the Downtown Interstate Loop Funding to assist TDOT with completing a series of transportation improvements outlined in the 2016 legislation passed by the TN General Assembly. Funding to jump start a series of investments to modernize the Interstates around downtown Nashville to improve safety, traffic flow, and transit access and to help improve quality of life for neighborhoods adjacent to the Interstate.

accommodate facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.

$450 Million Dedicated to Roadway Safety Programs Funding for spot improvements in high crash areas to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists.

$228 Million Dedicated to Active Transportation Programs Funding for to improve sidewalk connectivity, bicycle routes, and pedestrian safety programs.

How much can we afford? Compared to other U.S. metro areas, Middle Tennessee is heavily dependent on federal funding to pay for major roadway and transit upgrades. A review of transportation A review of transportation plans from 15 peer regions revealed that the Plan for the Nashville area ranked last in terms of funding per capita. Half of those regional plans provided more than twice the funding per capita than this Plan. The difference is attributed to much higher levels of local, regional, or state sources of revenue dedicated to transportation improvements within peer regions.


$10.5 Billion Based on current funding levels authorized by U.S. Congress, the Nashville area is expected to receive approximately $10.5 billion over the next 25 years from federal transportation grants that are distributed by formula to states and metropolitan areas. That amount includes the required non- federal matching dollars provided by the State and local governments.

$2.8 Billion U.S. Interstate Funding for new or improved

Funding for WeGo Public Transit, the Franklin Transit Authority, and Murfreesboro Rover to conduct preventative maintenance, acquire and replace vehicles, improve transit stations and other facilities, and to expand the vanpool program and rural transportation services. $1.1 Billion Dedicated to Support Existing Local and Regional Transit interchanges, additional travel lanes, and technology upgrades to improve traffic operations and traveler information along the region’s Interstate

$260 Million in Federal Funds at 2 Percent Annual Growth Short-Term Priorities

Did You Know? The United States spends approximately $53 billion per year on transportation infrastructure programs across the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Of that amount the State of Tennessee receives about $1 billion per year in recurring federal formula funding through the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transportation Administration. Roughly $260 million per year of the State’s share is allocated for investment within the seven-county Nashville metropolitan area.

$125 Million Dedicated to a Regional Technology Program Funding to assist TDOT with completing a series of transportation improvements outlined in the 2016 legislation passed by the TN General Assembly.

Historically, federal funding for transportation projects is sourced from federal fuel taxes paid at the pump. Fuel taxes have not kept up with transportation costs. In recent years, Congress has transferred money from the general fund in order to prevent a decline in spending.


Proposed Projects

TDOT IMPROVE ACT PROJECTS (~•) In 2017, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the “Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads, and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy” or IMPROVE Act to raise revenue to accelerate the construction of projects across Tennessee. The Regional Transportation Plan includes $4 billion to help implement those projects located within the Nashville metropolitan area. OTHER FUNDED IMPROVEMENTS (~•) The Plan allocates an additional $1.5 billion to implement projects spearheaded by municipal and county governments. Those improvements are scheduled over the next 25 years in one of three time periods including a short-term horizon (2021-2025), a mid-term horizon (2026-2035), and a long-term horizon (2036-2045). Most of those projects are needed today, but will need to wait years due to funding limitations. Those delays will add to increased costs as inflation takes it toll. ILLUSTRATIVE NEEDS (~•) There are more than 100 additional projects that cannot be implemented at current or anticipated levels of funding during the next quarter century. Those projects are in addition to regional initiatives to expand and modernize transit service. The region’s overall funding shortfall exceeds $10 billion or more when all identified unfunded projects are taken into consideration.

ADDITIONAL FUNDING OPTIONS To speed up project delivery and to address more of our transportation challenges, elected leaders will need local support to consider the following options to plug the gap. While Tennessee increased its user fees in 2017, the federal motor fuels taxes have not been adjusted in nearly 30 years.


What do places like Denver, Austin, and Charlotte have in common with places like Kalamazoo, MI and Lakeland, FL? They all have local taxes dedicated to public transit. The Nashville area is one of the largest metros in the nation without it. The IMPROVE Act permits Middle Tennessee counties to pursue dedicated funding for transit programs through a voter referendum. Some states allow motorists to pay a fee to use area roadways, similar to someone paying a transit fair when boarding a bus or train. Funding from fees is used to pay for the construction and maintenance of roadway lanes that might not otherwise have been built. Some areas change the price throughout the day to help manage traffic conditions. One of the shortcomings of the gas tax is that it is levied at a per gallon rate. Since the revenue generated from fuel taxes does not increase with the price of gasoline, the tax is not able to sustain its value over the long-term due to inflation. One solution is to index the per gallon rate to inflation so that it automatically increases over time within a set of limits set by the legislature or an independent commission. The gasoline tax will not be a viable revenue stream as hybrid and electric vehicles grow in market share. Instead of relying on fuel consumption to generate revenue, a distance-based fee would have users pay based on the amount of travel - much in the same way people pay for utilities. This type of fee could be calculated using existing technology and the rate could vary by route, time-of-day, or congestion levels to help manage traffic flow.






TDOT IMPROVE Act Projects Other Funded Improvements Illustrative Needs

Bridge, Interchange, or Intersection Improvement

Existing Route New Alignment High Capacity Transit Corridors

Interact with this Map Online at GNRC.org/Transportation

The map depicts projects that have a physical location. About 35 percent of funding is scheduled for maintenance, safety improvements, transit vehicles, and other projects that will be identified later.

Alignments are conceptual and subject to change as a result of additional study and public input.



Participation in regional transportation planning is important, but is only an early step in the transportation decision-making process. Most ideas identified in the Plan will undergo additional community engagement as they move towards implementation. It is important to stay involved by following your local jurisdiction’s planning efforts or by engaging your favorite regional non-profit organization. Remember, the Regional Transportation Plan is updated at least every five years, so stay connected.

Join the thousands of people who have already provided input through local planning efforts, transportation studies, opinion polling and public workshops. Continue to stay engaged even after the plan is adopted to provide feedback in the design and engineering of proposed improvements.

It’s never too late to tell public officials what you think! Visit GNRC.org/Transportation to stay connected to the ongoing planning process.




GNRC was established by the Tennessee General Assembly as an association of municipal and county governments empowered to convene local and state leaders for the purposes of planning and programming state and federal investments into a range of social services and public infrastructure. GNRC serves as the region’s federally-recognized Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Area Agency on Aging and Disability (AAAD), and Economic Development District (EDD). GNRC’s role in transportation planning is governed by a Transportation Policy Board which convenes local, state, and federal public officials to oversee the development of plans and programs for the Nashville metropolitan area. COLLABORATIVE DECISIONS The Transportation Policy Board is empowered by federal law to serve as the primary forum for collaboration among local elected officials, public transit operators, TDOT, and other state and federal agencies in order to negotiate a mutually beneficial plan to invest in roadways, bridges, public transit, and other transportation facilities across the greater Nashville area. The collaborative decision-making of the Transportation Policy Board membership is showcased every five years in the form of a regional transportation plan. The purpose of the plan is to direct the investment of public funds and other actions in a way that will provide for a safe and reliable transportation system, help local communities thrive over the long- term, and support the economic productivity of the region and State. The plan is guided by four key principles that embody the shared philosophy and a set of core values that are defined by GNRC’s transportation planning partners and the community at-large.

Guiding Principles

Sustainability Encourage growth without sacrificing the health, natural or historical assets, or financial stability of this or future generations. Diversity Contribute to the region’s economic productivity by prioritizing solutions that connect workforce with jobs,

Livability Enhance quality of life by prioritizing initiatives that increase opportunities for housing, learning, employment, recreation, and civic involvement while maintaining affordability. Prosperity Contribute to the region’s economic productivity by prioritizing solutions that connect workforce with jobs, improve access to markets, and leverage additional investment.

improve access to markets, and leverage additional investment.


Connecting Communities. Empowering People.

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