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VOL. 41 | NO. 26 | Friday, June 30, 2017

Neighbors on both sides sure they have right answer

By Linda Bryant

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Hunter Hartman with Craft Brewed Nashville welcomes the proposed changes to 8th Avenue South. Those who agree with the need for sidewalks and bike lanes to accommodate all the new residential development in the area say the changes would aid in safer travel.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

The final decision over the reconfiguration of Eighth Avenue South will likely not be made until sometime in 2018.

Meanwhile, passions continue to run high on both sides of the debate. A genuine community brouhaha has developed.

Why are people so vigorously engaged in this issue?

Robert Cherry, who lives two blocks south of Wedgewood Avenue off Eighth Avenue South, says the intensity of the debate is connected to Nashville’s stratospheric growth and to residents’ frustration with issues related to that growth, particularly traffic.

“This has been brewing for almost 20 years now,” Cherry says. “We have 100-plus new people a day still moving here with no place to live.

“After our first five residential high rises went up and sold, builders began pushing new construction to the surrounding downtown areas from East Nashville to Vanderbilt looking for cheaper property to redevelop.

“Nashville has had a serious issue with keeping our roads up to date in order to handle the increased traffic volume from the burbs which has created the Eighth Avenue South mess,” Cherry adds. “And our city planners can’t seem to agree on the best way to feasibly add mass transit to all five counties which comprise Metro Nashville.”

There also seems to be a genuine cultural divide between commuters who increasingly rely on thoroughfares to avoid traffic-saturated interstates and a particular niche of city dwellers – those who rely less on cars and place a high priority on walkable neighborhoods.

And Nashville is not alone.

Cities across the country – from Seattle to Boulder to Charlotte to Los Angeles – have had similar heated community debates about these road reconfigurations, often called road diets.

With organized citizens lining up on both sides of the issue, it appears Nashville is in for a protracted debate about the proposed Eighth Avenue South road diet.

The Ledger spoke with many community members, including suburban commuters who use Eighth Avenue South as a thoroughfare, inner-city residents who live near Eighth and would like to be able to walk safely to new restaurants and retail stores on the corridor, bike enthusiasts and business owners.

Here are some of their responses.

Hunter Hartman

Manager/buyer, Craft Brewed Nashville

2502 8th Ave. S

“This neighborhood is already a residential neighborhood – or at least located very close to one – and it’s becoming more and more of one every day. Eighth Avenue is no longer only a cardinal thoroughfare. Yes, it’s a heavily trafficked and traveled upon road, but when it comes down to it, that’s not its purpose. Its purpose shouldn’t be to circumnavigate the interstate.

“The speed limit on Eighth is 35, but I see people going 10-20 even 25 over the limit. There are wrecks and collisions all the time. It’s a very dangerous road, and it’s because people are using it as a main mode of travel.

“People are upset because they are afraid they are going to lose their shortcut, but we’re very concerned about the safety. Many of the people who are so upset don’t even realize there’s a safety issue.

“It honestly blows my mind that more (local businesses) aren’t for this. You look at major cities such as New York or Chicago, etc. They are pedestrian friendly. They have to be, and that’s the direction Nashville is headed. Our traffic is going to outgrow our infrastructure, drivers are going to be terrible and people who don’t want to deal with it are going to find alternative transportation such as walking or biking, especially when they don’t have that much of a commute.”

R. Rafferty

Eighth Avenue South commuter

“The [Eighth Avenue South] area is not conducive to pedestrians; it is not scenic; there are only a couple of people who walk there, and that is to get to work from their cars or to enter a business.

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“Pedestrians are not made safer with this plan for the same reasons as cyclists (are not safer) due to turning cars everywhere, the high volume of traffic and no sidewalks or crosswalks. Let’s face it; there is not room on Eighth Avenue for sidewalks. And, walking on a bike path? Get run over by a bike? It’s not safer for them.

“Cutting down Eighth Avenue to just two moving lanes for a single, unneeded center turning lane, doubles and chokes the heavy traffic that motorists contend with every day on this route. It is a complete waste of construction time and money for everyone. We, who travel this way every day, implore those individuals who are considering this plan: Please do not ruin one of the only thoroughfares through which you can actually pass at critical times of the day.”

Collin Brown

Lives near Eighth Avenue South

“I don’t think the commuters travelling down Eighth Avenue South in the mornings and evenings really care about modern walkable 21st century neighborhoods that are vibrant and safe for the many children and families living in neighborhoods like 12South/Melrose.

“These Eighth Avenue commuters are just trying to rush home to their 20th century suburban neighborhoods as fast as possible while texting on their iPhones as they drive. Many people living around Eighth Avenue, at least until you get south of Woodmont Boulevard, value a different kind of community.

“The suburban commuters just want to drive home to their isolated neighborhoods without sidewalks or anything they can walk to. The residents of Nashville living closer to downtown want, and have paid for, the convenience and enjoyment that comes with being able to safely walk and bike around the neighborhood.”

Jill Adkins

Commuter from Crieve Hall

“I commute Monday through Friday from the Crieve Hall area up Eighth Avenue South to the corner of Broadway and Ninth. I definitely don’t want the number of lanes to be reduced, but I definitely want a turn lane, too.

“I don’t think reducing the lanes down to one each way with a turn lane will work because most of the traffic from Wedgewood going south is not stopping in the Eighth Avenue South corridor, but is continuing on to Oak Hill, Forest Hills and Crieve Hall.

“I do agree that a turn lane is needed for safety reasons. It is harrowing when someone is stopped dead in the street to turn left, and you come up behind them. It would be great if a compromise could be reached.

“Eighth Avenue is definitely a thoroughfare and one of the few that offer an alternative to I-65. I don’t like to drive on I-65. It comes down to room and space. Could we keep two lanes but add sidewalks? I would love to have it all: two lanes each way, a turning lane and sidewalks.”

Sue Cain

Nashville resident

“After there is a quality Metro mass transit system in place (not buses that make matters worse), then beautification of our corridors – including not only Eighth Avenue/Franklin Pike but, also, Dickerson Pike, Nolensville Pike, Gallatin Pike, Lebanon Pike, Murfreesboro Pike, McGavock Pike, to name a few – makes sense.

“But this needs to be done in a rational order without favoritism to the higher income areas developers are pushing.

“Inevitably, pushing Franklin Pike (8th Ave. S.) down to two lanes will result in more people trying to use cut through streets using more gas, causing more pollution and disrupting neighborhoods.

“Yes, we need all this beautification at the right time but there is an order that must be followed. Significant, affordable mass transit so motor vehicles can be left at home without commuters being stranded with no way back when needed must be first and begun before it is too late. I question the judgment of anyone who believes reducing Franklin Pike to two lanes is rational.”

Mary Wherry

Oak Hill resident

“I am one who believes in managed progress. The Eighth Avenue traffic plan is definitely not managed progress. Eighth Avenue is one of our main arteries that handles traffic in and out of our city. It is not a Belmont Boulevard or Shelby Avenue, since Eighth is a major bus route.

“What will the cars do that are behind a city bus whenever it stops to drop off or pick up passengers? They will have to wait or they could move over into the middle lane and meet head on traffic from those who were blocked on the other side of this 3-lane mess or traffic trying to turn into a business in Berry Hill.”

Austin Ray

Owner, M.L.Rose Craft Beer & Burgers

2585 8th Ave. S

“Changing to three lanes will change the way people feel about being on Eighth Avenue. People who live and work here can actually walk or bike with some sense of safety; people who want to be here can still get here; then get out of their car and walk around.

“People who are driving through can take the interstate, or get home three minutes later during rush hour by taking Eighth Ave. This move stakes a claim that Eighth Avenue is a place to be more than a place to drive through.

“We have the power to create a complete neighborhood. This is rare. Eighth Avenue is already trying to carve out its own sense of place, and it’s on the verge of doing so. To me, the biggest thing preventing this is a four-lane highway going down the middle of it. [What’s currently in place.] The corridor as it exists today is a 50-year old model, when this was the only highway to get to Franklin.”

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