Author's note: this morning Scottsboro resident Brenda Butka sent me her own traffic impact study should May Town Center be built. She invokes the iconic traffic jam scene in the motion picture Nashville to underscore the potential for a keen commuter crisis, unless you have time, guitars, and beer to spare. Her commentary is printed below in its entirety:
Maytown: Nashville Gridlock Redux
Remember Robert Altman’s Nashville? About all any of us of a certain age can recall about that movie was the iconic traffic jam—remember?
An impromptu social life conjured out of interstate gridlock, complete with music and refreshments?
Well, if Maytown has its way, we might as well call the cameras back.
As first presented last year, Tony, Jack and Frank insisted that one bridge access would be plenty, and that no one in Maytown, including the thirty years’ worth of construction crews, would have to even drive down Old Hickory Boulevard, the tiny two-lane road which currently connects the Mays’ cow pasture to civilization. Their hired-gun traffic analyst agreed—one six-lane bridge.
The obvious connection was through Charlotte Park to I-40, but folks who lived over there didn’t much like the idea, and the bridge site was shifted to Cockrill Bend, near Riverbend, the state prison, where the few semi-permanent residents didn’t object.
By my calculations, allowing 20 feet per car and 20 feet (a minimum) between cars, and traveling 20 miles per hour, one lane can handle 2,640 cars per hour. No fenderbenders, no glitches, no stoplights, no left-hand turns. No one running out of gas, no flat tires, no TDOT calls.
So that bridge with three lanes each way, could manage 7,920 cars per hour. Maytown is projecting that 40,000 people will be employed there—that makes an event-free morning rush hour 5 hours long—let’s say from 5:30 to 10: 30. Even if a few people ride the bus, and all 5,000 condos are sold to people who theoretically can walk to work, and traffic is cut by 25%, we’re still looking at 6 a.m. to 10 a.m, and 3 to 7. Maybe Maytown will mandate flextime.
Of course, every commuter would have to drive down Cockrill Bend Industrial Road to get to that bridge, and Cockrill Bend Industrial Road is only two lanes each way, 5,280 cars per hour—either rush hour will last 7.5 hours twice a day, or CBID will need a lot of work. Taxpayer-funded work.
And, if there is that fenderbender—well, time to break out the beer and guitars and get very well acquainted with the guy in the BMW in front of you.
So, somewhere along the line, the Maytown speculators decided to shift gears a bit and gingerly acknowledge the faint possibility that someone sometime might just need to build Bridge Number Two and Bridge Number Three. Not for sure, mind you, but perhaps.
And now, oh taxpayers of Tennessee, we are no longer talking about fenderbenders. We’re talking about the mind-bending idea that if this land-spec scheme is green-lighted by our Planning Commission, in the service of a fantasy involving property tax income, and if this scheme is successful enough to bring in that property tax income, we are on the hook for multiple bridges, connectors, cloverleaf exits, and interstate widening projects, and gridlock stretching into the future as far as the eye can see. Our children’s children will be paying for these “improvements”.
Really, this land-spec scheme could play out two ways: If the development is a bust, all we’re out is a couple of new cloverleafs, buying rightofway along Cockrill Bend, widening the road there, widening Briley by a couple of lanes each way—maybe a few hundred million tax dollars. And an “unsuccessful” Maytown doesn’t produce that magical flood of property tax money, so we have paid for a pointless exercise in dreamscape fantasy.
If the development is “successful”, all that flood of tax money will be sopped up forever by endless building of the infrastructure to keep up with the mess. So we have again paid for a pointless exercise in fantasy.
And all we’ve talked about is traffic. Although I know something about physiology, I haven’t a clue how to calculate the—uh—waste production of Maytown’s denizens, and the necessary sewer plants, water mains, electrical switching stations, and on and on.
The only winners in Maytown are the land speculators who hold the property—a handful of already-wealthy men looking at land-boom profits if this is approved.
Of course, it can play out another way entirely. We can acknowledge that, enticing as this fantasy is, it is only a fantasy, and that in reality, cities can only be built where people can get to them, and successful cities really happen gradually where people already are.
We might also ponder the extent to which these guys will tell us what they think we want to hear at the moment.
By the way, there are NO taxpayer costs for fresher food, farm employment, and a Nashville reputation as the hip green city where you and I and a bunch of smart young people want to live.
Break out the beer and the guitars…