Mayor Karl Dean has said that better rapid transportation could lead to new businesses and more jobs for Nashville, and the federal government pledged millions of dollars Friday to get Metro's rapid transit moving in the fast lane.
The Music City Circuit buses are about to get quieter and more fuel efficient, as Nashville is receiving $3 million to go to zero-emission electric buses on the circuit route.
"Very few cities have done it. Very few cities have been willing to accelerate forward this quickly," said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff.
The Music City Circuit is a free bus service that runs in the Central Business District and connects to areas like the state Capitol and the Nashville Farmer's Market.
Dean said the circuit is an important service with the new convention center under construction.
And if it works on the circuit, the program could be something that is expanded to all buses.
"It's absolutely the way we'd like to go, and I think we'll see how this works with the circuit and then we'll make some determinations," said MTA Board Chairman Paul Ballard.
But while Nashville made an impression with this grant, the city is depending on another federal grant for its biggest mass transit project.
The city needs more federal funding to make its planned East-West connector a reality. It would run along an eight-mile corridor stretching from the Five Points area in east Nashville to the White Bridge Road area in west Nashville.
And winning that money could be a bigger challenge than expected.
"The challenge is the funding. The program is frozen-funded for the next two years. It's going to be a competition between cities for those dollars, but we are going to make sure there's a mix of rail and (bus rapid transit) projects in that envelope and Nashville could be one of them," Rogoff said.
Rogoff said in order for Nashville to win that funding, it's going to need to show local support, significant local funding and the proper zoning to make bus rapid transit a success.
However, he added he believes Nashville is doing the right thing.
"I have to commend the mayor for making a smart decision for going with the bus rapid transit option as opposed to going for the more expensive rail or streetcar option," Rogoff said.
A change in federal law has pushed back the deadline to apply for federal funds for bus rapid transit.
Overall, the East-West connector is expected to cost about $175 million.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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