Actual cost of mass transit plan could be nearly double stated a - WSMV News 4

Actual cost of mass transit plan could be nearly double stated amount

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Mayor Megan Barry’s proposed transit plan could cost nearly twice as much as the public had initially been told.

The estimated cost could be nearly $9 billion. That number is buried on page 50 of the report, “Let’s Move Nashville: Metro’s Transportation Solution.” The Transit Improvement Program report is dated Dec. 13, 2017.

The Barry administration has been saying the transit plan would cost about $5.4 billion; that amount is also used in a public service announcement to gather public support for the project.

The mayor’s transit plan includes light rail, bus improvements, and an underground route through downtown.

However, the detailed cost projections for the plan show the $5 billion only covers the light rail portion of the plan. Bus enhancements add another $1 billion, and interest and financing is another $1 billion.

The costs are ammunition for a newly formed PAC called No Tax 4 Tracks. The PAC is working to sway voters to vote no in a referendum on the transit plan.

"Well, the cost is enormous,” said Melissa Smithson, a member of No Tax 4 Tracks.

"It was $5.4 billion, then it went up, and now it’s at $9 billion. That's just for capital cost. We're not talking about for operational cost. And there are always overruns," Smithson said.

Walter Searcy is a spokesman for the group "Transit for Nashville,” a group that supports the mayor's plan. He seemed unaware of what was included in the $9 billion figure.

"I'm glad you brought that to my attention because these are not figures we are typically queried about,” Searcy said.

Searcy said pinning down the exact cost of the transit project is difficult.

"It's purely speculation how much it will actually be," Searcy said. “It could be less than $9 billion, it could be more than $9 billion.”

The question voters may be asked to decide is how much they are willing to pay to avoid sitting in traffic.

Click here to read the entire Transit Improvement Plan.

UPDATE - Jan. 25, 2018:

The mayor's office released this statement about the cost of the transit program:

Nothing has changed in terms of costs. The transit improvement program represents a $5.4 billion infrastructure investment in the future of Nashville. Just like when you buy a house, if you add in long-term operating, interest, maintenance and other costs, the initial purchase price looks higher. The Mayor has proposed a comprehensive transportation solution with a dedicated source of revenue that will ensure future Mayors and Metro Councils don’t have to use the general fund to supplement operations and maintenance over the long term.

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