Love Can Build a Bridge

December 6, 2022

We have a Metro Council meeting tonight. You can review proposed amendments and analysis of the agenda. There is a public hearing.

A little over a year ago, I wound up getting an invitation to a meeting about replacing the Broadway viaduct.

I could not have imagined this would become such a frustrating exercise, where Nashville's infrastructure priorities and design preferences would get subsumed by a TDOT value engineering process.

Wanna see for yourself? Take a look. You can even watch the polite but dispiriting presentation to Council. (I couldn't attend that evening but appreciated some of the questions of colleagues.)

This bridge is almost literally the gateway to downtown from the west. It should be a showpiece of infrastructure, especially coming at a time when we have a generational opportunity through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

In Midtown, I just worked with Planning and several project teams to transform the future of our streetscape, and we're looking at enhanced transit infrastructure in midtown.

Meanwhile, in downtown, work continues on the critical Connect Downtown project.

One of the top complaints I get from residents of Edgehill and midtown trying to cross into downtown is how unsafe they feel on our overpasses because of low railings and narrow pedestrian paths. The apparent fix here? Ugly fencing.

Pedestrian counts apparently surprised some TDOT engineers. I see people on scooters all the time. I hear from bike commuters all the time about the frustrations of trying to commute to or through downtown.

There's just no good reason I can think of to preserve a design that offers no facility for transit or a multi-use path but maintains not only a turn lane for a bridge (that you can't turn off of directly) with 3 lanes for motorists in each direction.

And, honestly, let's find a way to make it beautiful. Include gateway design for a gateway bridge.

Other cities are transforming themselves. They're finding ways to use infrastructure to help their residents live healthier, happier, less expensive lives. We are staying stuck in the past.

If you'd like to join me in demanding better—in demanding that we build for our future not our past—I'd encourage you to send a note to Rebekah Hammonds and Shane Hester on the project team for TDOT.

If we don't ask for great, we'll get mediocre if we're lucky. This is a generational opportunity. We've already missed too many over the past two years. Let's not miss another. Let's build a bridge we love.

What's Happening

  • I'm trying to understand the practical implications of CM Cash's proposed rule change for deferral in committee. [Rule 8 Amendment]
  • Public Hearing
  • There will be a public hearing on a resolution to authorize a pilot program for license plate readers (LPRs). As a computer scientist, I've been historically skeptical of surveillance state measures from a standpoint of unintended consequences, and we don't have much evidence that LPRs systematically reduce crime. I think more targeted pilots (downtown, southeast specifically for drag racing) would make more sense than a blanket pilot. I would feel much better about this proposal if it weren't actively opposed by so many organizations representing Nashville's communities of color. I think we still have some work to do to alleviate concerns. And I'll just share that I picked up a random $10 parking charge earlier this summer because an LPR inaccurately recorded an out-of-state plate that matched mine. I would rather not get arrested over a similar error. [RS2022-1883]
  • CM Parker has proposed updates to the definitions of "family" and "dwelling unit," and I believe this suggested change is a result of a recent eviction of college students under "overcrowding" laws. I'm sympathetic to the students and see this as an affordability issue, but I also recognize that these definitions really do matter for setting community expectations. [BL2022-1471]
  • We've had some pretty intense neighborhood discussion about a proposed affordable senior housing facility with services in my neighborhood of Salemtown. I am personally supportive of the project but acknowledge that there have been some frustrations about the process so far and a lack of information that would help the community feel more certain about some of the impact. [BL2022-1490]
  • We have another tall building project proposed for downtown just as the context starts to change on Rutledge Hill. [BL2022-1553]
  • We have been hearing a lot about an emergency room proposed in Bellevue. [BL2022-1563]
  • I still have some concerns about the potential for a Council-led nominating process to impact so many boards and commissions, but I'm interested in the perspective of other CMs. I strongly support the goal of increasing diversity among boards and commissions. [BL2022-1528]
  • If we're deferring the term sheet, I think it would make sense to allow the bill for the hotel occupancy tax to track with that rather than pass it on 2nd reading, when we usually discuss bills. I'm still waiting on answers to a number of questions about the overall deal. [BL2022-1529]
  • I'm mostly okay with CM Cash's "obstructions" bill, although I was underwhelmed by enforcement of our prior "Don't Block My Walk" effort. [BL2022-1530]
  • We still don't seem to have reached consensus among animal advocates on the latest version of CM Styles's animal bill. I'm not sure we're ready to pass it on 2nd reading. [BL2022-1571]
  • I'm interested in hearing more about the differences between CM Young's traffic calming bill and the one CM Rosenberg withdrew. One thing is obvious: multiple neighborhoods across Nashville want safer streets. [BL2022-1572]

What's Coming

  • I expect the proposed term sheet for a new stadium for the Titans to get deferred tonight. [RS2022-1827]
  • There's a small but irritating issue I've seen becoming a trend where new infill development is putting utility boxes right up by the sidewalk. It seems like we could make better design choices for neighborhoods and pedestrians. I appreciate CM Benedict exploring this issue. [BL2022-1581]

What I'm Hearing

  • We still have serious public safety concerns on Demonbreun Hill that seem to come from a single establishment.
  • Construction noise continues to be a top concern of urban residents. Recent updates to the noise regulations have not really helped Metro's ability to enforce, particularly overnight.

What I've Been Up To

  • I've attended a few of the East Bank Stadium Committee public input sessions, which have been very interesting.
  • I've participated in multiple Salemtown community meetings about the proposed Barnes Fund project mentioned above.
  • I enjoyed the Christmas Tree lighting at Public Square.
  • I dropped by The DISTRICT's holiday party.
  • I participated in a vigil at Public Square commemorating the lives lost in the Colorado Springs massacre.
  • I attended the World Aids Day event supporting Nashville CARES.
  • And I've been all over the Nashville community as a whole finding Christmas cheer, listening to concerns, and meeting people.

What You Can Do

It's funny how the world seems to slow down a little bit at this time of the year, and yet my calendar is as full as ever.


Freddie O'Connell

Metro Council, District 19

Mayoral Candidate, 2023


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