Mayor’s capital spending prioritizes education, transportation projects | Finance

Mayor John Cooper introduced his capital spending plan last week, highlighting his commitments to education, transportation and community amenities.

Almost half of the $568 million plan is concentrated on education and transportation improvements. This consists of $134 million allocated to the development or renovation of four elementary schools and one high school as well as $141 million to develop a Transportation Management Center, execute 25 traffic calming projects, pave 285 lane miles of roadway, rehab bridges and culverts at 61 sites and several other improvements.

This furthers the mayor’s characterization of his capital spending plan in his State of Metro address earlier this year as a historically large investment in public education, which included a budget proposal at the time for $81 million to put toward Metro Nashville Public Schools but now meets MNPS’s $85 million-dollar priority request for maintenance across more than 100 facilities for everything from playground repairs, computer replacements and new buses.

“Once again, Mayor Cooper has shown a commitment to Metro Schools through investments that will create better learning environments for our students and improve the quality of our facilities,” said Dr. Adrienne Battle, MNPS director of schools.

The four elementary schools at Antioch, Haywood, Paragon Mills and Percy Priest will see development to meet the long-term goal of consolidating fifth graders back into elementary schools to improve their academic performance. The future Hillwood High School in Bellevue will be completed for another $29 million to open in 2023, supplanting a more than 60-year-old facility for a $100 million expenditure. The campus to come will serve 1,600 students from 34 of Metro Nashville’s 35 council districts.

“Our students, teachers and the community we serve are excited to see progress being made and grateful for Mayor Cooper’s commitment to complete this project on time, so we can experience our new, modern learning environment,” said Dr. Stephen Sheaffer, Hillwood’s principal.

Cooper has repeatedly attributed paving, sidewalk and traffic management improvement to his Vision Zero initiative to mitigate safety hazards for pedestrians and bikers. The Vision Zero Action Plan ambitiously aims to end all traffic-related deaths and severe injuries using data-driven strategies, and to that end, the capital spending plan allots $2 million for a new Transportation Management Center, currently in the design phase as the new Nashville Department of Transportation crosses its fingers upon having requested federal funding to establish it.

“I’m excited we are making a significant down payment on needed improvements that will benefit drivers, transit riders and pedestrians in neighborhoods across Davidson County,” said Councilmember Zach Young, newly appointed chairperson of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Welcoming its new Chief Engineer Brad Freeze next week, NDOT also draws on another $5 million to install more crosswalks, lighting and other improvements per Vision Zero. NDOT aims to put other dollars in its budget toward upgrading bus stops and shelters, replacing 19 active buses, adding new buses and developing new sidewalks and bikeways. The $141 million Metro put into that budget also lured an additional $58 million in grants.

The capital spending plan also includes investments totaling $30 million in improving access to neighborhood green space and amenities. This will increase public green space by approximately 60 acres, including an imminent, $1 million-dollar, 10-acre city park in Antioch off Tusculum Road. Another $1.75 million is expected to avail 53 heretofore undeveloped acres of park space in Trinity Hills after a community engagement process has taken place.

Capital spending also accounts for the completion of the long anticipated Old Hickory Community Center, the expansion of Nashville’s network of greenway trails, the addition of four East Nashville acres to the Lakeland Springs Park, and the construction of an event space at Two Rivers Park in Donelson.

Yet another $1 million is earmarked for restoring the original stonework of historic Fort Negley’s UNESCO Slave Routes Project site.

Other major investments include $72 million for what Mayor Cooper calls “city essentials” for Nashville’s rate of growth, which include $5 million in affordable housing initiatives via Metro Development and Housing Agency. Similar investments within the $72 million are expected to bring the Global Mall in Southeast Nashville as well as a future fire station in North Nashville, a first-responder training academy for firefighters and police, flood risk mitigation projects, library investments and repairs and upgrades to Metro Headstart early education facilities.

The plan accounts for $20 million to complete the reimagining of the Christmas Day bomb site on Second Avenue, First Avenue and the West Bank of the Cumberland River. Another $22 million will go toward the development of Fairgrounds Nashville with ADA accessibility and various other improvements.

Metro will contribute $15 million — matched equally by private donations — to fund the construction of a parking garage for the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. The spending plan also puts $3 million on a future riverfront park at the junction of First Avenue and Gay Street.

Jinggo B Danuarta

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