Mayor John Cooper’s push to create a Nashville Department of Transportation via Public Works and Metro Water Services might let him implement a wide-ranging transportation plan even before establishing NDOT. But concerns persists that it risks unduly burdening Metro Water.
Nashville officials in December adopted a comprehensive transportation plan and, while NDOT would obviously be the agency to execute it in the long term, the administration intends to move forward before NDOT is established by giving Metro Water the responsibility of garbage pickup while shifting several responsibilities into Public Works’ domain. Another wrinkle: State regulators have criticized the water department as being less than fiscally efficient prior to Nashville approving the shift of garbage collection to Metro Water’s jurisdiction. In addition, Council members have asked whether the move might make Nashville the weak link in the state chain for water services.
The new Public Works purviews are the cornerstone of the administration’s transportation agenda. Last month, a Cooper memorandum of understanding proposed transferring garbage collection from Public Works to Metro Water and rebranding Public Works as the new NDOT. Several Metro Councilmembers expressed adamant opposition, with Freddie O’Connell — chairman of the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Commission — saying he supports NDOT as a concept but didn’t see how Public Works could become a transportation department. O’Connell called it “way more than a rebranding” and claimed the department was “at least a full decade behind where it needs to be” to handle transportation, biking, walking and motorist needs.
Cooper’s team has since worked with the Council to amend facets of its agenda such that Councilmembers felt sufficiently comfortable approving the MOU on Tuesday while also advancing a new smart parking program to a final vote. Cooper spokesperson Andrea Fanta said this is a strategy that ensures the administration isn’t stuck waiting for NDOT to materialize.
“Metro will ask voters to approve a charter change to create a local DoT with the next election cycle,” Fanta told the Post. “But we cannot and do not want to wait until then to get started on executing the Metro Transportation Plan.”
Fanta contends that moving solid waste to Metro Water Services frees Public Works to focus on executing the transportation plan, although related responsibilities like those of the smart parking program can still be denied by the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Commission in the weeks to come. Without that approval, the administration will have made a legally questionable change to the duties of two agencies at the risk of overwhelming one.
Still, smart parking is hardly the only new responsibility the administration planned on sending to Public Works.
“We want Metro Public Works to be mission-focused on the plan, to build more sidewalks,…
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