Plan to ease Harding traffic nixed

Friday, March 4, 2011, Vol. 35, No. 9
By Judy Sarles

A Metro plan to ease traffic at Harding and White Bridge roads is being pulled by the Metro Planning Commission following protests from neighbors and greenway supporters.

The proposal called for a connector linking Woodlawn Drive to White Bridge Road – crossing Harding -- to help reduce congestion at the Harding-White Bridge intersection. It also included widening Harding from five to six lanes from St. Thomas Hospital to west of Belle Meade Plaza.

The Woodlawn connector, as drawn, would have eliminated the White Bridge entrance to the Richland Creek Greenway.

The proposed project was part of the “Implementing Complete Streets: Major and Collector Street Plan of Metropolitan Nashville, A Component of Mobility 2030.” The Woodlawn connector and Harding Road lane expansion were dropped after neighbors and greenway supporters voiced their protests at last week’s hearing.

A vote to approve the remaining Major and Collector Street Plan will take place March 10. Metro planner Mark Briggs says the Planning Department has no plans to discuss the Harding Road and Woodlawn-White Bridge connector at that meeting unless the commission brings them up.

Bell Newton, speaking at last week’s meeting, said she was concerned about how the plan would affect her Woodlawn Drive neighborhood. She asked the commission to bear in mind that, during the process of implementing the Harding Town Center Urban Design Overlay (UDO) for the area about five years ago, the neighborhood was promised a Harding Town Center transportation study.

“It has never been studied,” Newton said, “so our concerns then are our concerns today. How can we support a behemoth road?”

The connector would have gone from Woodlawn Drive to Harding Road, paralleling Kenner alongside the old Belle Meade Theatre, now a Harris-Teeter grocery store. After crossing Harding, it would have continued past Belle Meade Hill Center to a bridge over the railroad tracks, turning 90 degrees before connecting to White Bridge at the current Greenway entrance.

John Cooper, speaking on behalf of the Woodlawn neighbors’ group, asked the commission to delay formal legal inclusion of the Bosley Springs Connector and changes to Harding Road, since they haven’t been vetted with the public. He also made a request to the commission to await the traffic study as well as input from Mary, Queen of Angels Assisted Living, the board of directors of the UDO, the neighbors on White Bridge Road, and Saint Thomas Hospital before moving forward on its plans.

“This is the work that needs to be done before the connector can be formalized enough to warrant inclusion legally in the Metro street plan,” says Cooper, “and it has not been done yet.”

Greenway supporters also voiced their concern.

“That is one of the most popular greenways in Nashville,” said Jim Kelley, president of Greenways for Nashville. “It is heavily used by not only residents of the neighborhoods around it but many other people in West Nashville.”

One goal of the Major and Collector Street Plan is to make sure public streets are constructed to accommodate all modes of transportation, including walking, bicycling, and mass transit. The Major and Collector Street Plan was last updated and adopted in 1992.

“We recognize that gas prices continue to rise and that our state has a public health crisis involving obesity, so we can no longer plan our streets like business as usual,” Briggs, a Metro planner, said during last week’s meeting.

“The update in the Major and Collector Street Plan strives to incorporate travel modes that might make an impact on these emerging issues.”