Elk Valley Times

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Nashville International Airport needs attention

Posted on Monday, June 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm

All of the recent attention given to Nashville as a top city for job growth seems to be causing a ripple that is prodding decision makers.

There was the news that the Music City Center had hit the symbolic mark of 1 million hotel rooms booked. Planning for a major bus rapid transit system is moving forward.

And the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which had already accepted Metro planners’ assessment that a portion of Donelson Pike near Nashville International Airport would need to be altered, decided to expedite a relocation of an 0.8-mile stretch of the road, with a price tag of $70 million.

This is no small amount of change, which suggests that officials see a pressing need: The airport is booming.

Currently, the airport serves about 4.8 million passengers a year. But within just 17 years, that number is projected to be 8.6 million. That estimate comes from the Metro Nashville Airport Authority, certainly not impartial on the subject. But even if the growth were only half that, strategic planning for the area around the airport is already behind.

Donelson Pike — which curves its way through an area needed for more parking, possibly mass transit and better access to the terminal — is uncomfortably close to a runway.

Proposed is a move to the east for the stretch of road from Interstate 40 south; although that means the interstate ramp also must be moved or reconfigured. Other access points along that stretch would be altered, but planners say that would ease airport access and overall traffic congestion.

Some neighborhood residents are not happy about the plan, but it is hard to imagine what could be gained by waiting until 2026 or so, when the project was slated to begin.

Nashville International is a part of the city, not built an hour away, like Denver’s Stapleton airport. …

With the pike crowding the airport runway and exacerbating the highway congestion, the real question should be: Why would anyone want to delay the project?

— Tennessean, Nashville