by Steven Hale
A week of public meetings on The Amp kicked off Monday night as hundreds of people filled the East Park Community Center for the first of four such gatherings along the proposed bus rapid transit route.
While the meeting's target audience was the residents and business owners that surround the east end of the route, the crowd also included most of the characters who have starred in the debate — publicly, as well as behind the scenes — over the project for a year or more. Stop Amp leaders Rick Williams, Lee Beaman and Dianne Neal were all in attendance, as were project supporters like Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce CEO and president Ralph Schulz, Transit Alliance executive director Ed Cole, and the growing number of public relations pros employed on behalf of the project.
But these meetings will be nothing like the neighborhood meetings that have played host to the pro-vs-con debate about the project up until now. Amidst those flacking for and against the project Monday night were community members leaning over long tables covered with maps of the route, discussing specific intersections and grilling project engineers on the details. Markers and Post-It notes were available so that individual concerns and comments could be posted to the route.
"Make 2-way!" read a note on one end of the route, while another (about a block away where a new traffic light will be installed) said "Thanks for the light!"
Attendees were also given comment forms to fill out and submit to the Metro Transit Authority. MTA spokeswoman Holly McCall tells Pith those forms will all be given to project engineers who will follow up with the author of each one. Not every requested tweak can be made, she says, but engineers will try to fix problems wherever they can.
Looking over the route's eastern terminus, Calypso Cafe owner Phil Brooks thinks he's identified just such a problem. A section of 11th which will be turned into a one-way street
"It makes it difficult for all of my customers from Gallatin Road to get to me," he says, pointing to a section of 11th Street that, as planned, would become a one-way street. "They'd have to go past Five Points, a big loop around six blocks to get to me, because of the one-way and taking out the signal."
Brooks, who says he's generally supportive of the project, concedes that it's possible those arguing The Amp will bring him more customers could have a point, and says some people have listened to his concerns. He tells Pith, though, that he has not yet spoken with one of the project's traffic engineers.
Three more meetings are planned for this week:
Tuesday, January 14, 5:00 p.m.
Nashville Downtown Partnership
150 4th Ave., N., Ste. G-150
Nashville, TN 37219
Wednesday, January 15, 5:30 p.m.
Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation, large conference room
2565 Park Plaza (near Centennial Park)
Nashville, TN 37203
Thursday, January 16, 5:30 p.m.
West End Middle School
3529 West End Ave
Nashville, TN 37205