Metro Nashville has begun working on a five-year plan to implement its goal of zero traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2050, at a first-year cost of $25 million.
Metro officials had adopted a five-year plan to begin in 2022 but now Jan. 30 is the first meeting of its 15-member task force that will coordinate with Metro staff to implement Vision Zero to prevent cyclist and pedestrian deaths.
Nashville is among the under 50 cities in the U.S. that have or are working on implementing a Vision Zero plan to calm traffic and expand right-of-way for pedestrians and cyclists.
According to Metro Nashville, since 2014, 468 people have suffered traffic-related deaths on state and local roads in Nashville. Last year was
the city’s deadliest year on record, with 49 pedestrian deaths in Nashville, Nashville Scene reported.
With the understanding that traffic deaths are preventable, Nashville is committing to spending $25 million in the first year to change the design of streets, improve infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists, lower vehicle speeds and enforce driving laws.
“At the core of Vision Zero is the need to design a system that manages speed and is forgiving of human error,” the planreads. “Crashes will happen; however, they should not lead to death or severe injury. As such, and given the context of the Nashville built environment, it is critical that the implementation plan is front-loaded with design interventions specifically aimed at reducing vehicular speeds so that crashes involving vulnerable road users are not deadly.”
The plans include adding separated bike lanes, more pedestrian crosswalks including raised ones, extending curbs, adding pedestrian refuge islands and medians, narrowing lanes through striping, improving lighting and traffic signals, adding signage and more.
While some improvements are inexpensive — $18 for high visibility crosswalks, i.e, paint, $60 for plastic Armadillo traffic separators, $120 for green paint for bike facility conflict areas and $121 for flexible bollards or safety posts — adding full traffic signals with four-way approaches cost between $360,000 and $540,000 for each intersection.
Other costs include $24,000 for each concrete curb extension, $180,000 for each pedestrian HAWK signals that stop traffic when a person is crossing, $12,000 for new pedestrian or roadway lighting and $10,000 for a raised pedestrian crosswalk.
Funding in fiscal year 2023 includes $20.7 million for engineering of Nashville’s roads, $1 million for education and encouragement through an awareness campaign, $3 million for evaluation and $250,000 for enforcement.
But Nashville DOT also has $18 million in funding from previous years that it will spend on the plan — $6.2 million for Nolensville Pike Safety Improvements, $8 million for a neighborhood traffic calming program, $2 million for traffic operations, speed trailers, and pedestrian crossing improvements, $1 million for education and safety awareness campaign and promotion, $500,000 to update design standards and construction details and develop a pedestrian crossing policy and $500,000 for data collection and website management.
Another $14 million in contingency funds for FY 2023 will be used “to account for supply chain issues, rising labor and construction costs, and to be matched against safety related federal and state grant programs.”
The plan states that “transformative projects” will occur on major arterials/pikes and will consists of “significant corridor transformations or reconstructions targeting the most unsafe roadways in Metro Nashville” and may leverage state and federal funding.
Beyond seeking federal and state grants, the plan recommends that the engineering portion of the annual Vision Zero budget increases by at least 3% annually, or $621,000 to start off.
“A recurring, sustained source of expanded funding will be required to advance Vision Zero,” the plan states.
The Nashville Vision Zero plan links to New York City’s and Denver’s Vision Zero plans as case studies for how to implement awareness campaigns, as well as other components of the plans.
But both cities have yet to see success in lowering deaths, with both cities seeing numbers increase, as 2021 had the highest number of deaths in each city since beginning Vision Zero in 2013 (New York) and since 2016 in Denver.
Denver’s goal is to end traffic deaths by 2030, and while 61 people died on Denver’s roads in 2016 when the city began implementing its Vision Zero plan, it saw 73 deaths in 2021.
In New York City, the number of hit and runs doubled from 2018 to 2021, totaling 93. Overall deaths totaled 271, a 33% increase over 2018, while its goal is to have zero deaths by next year, 2024.