By JOHN McBRYDE
When it comes to solving regional transportation problems, money does most of the talking.
That, in essence, was the primary message put forth by Lone Tree, Colorado Mayor Jackie Millet during the fifth annual Transportation Summit hosted by Williamson Inc. Thursday at the Franklin Marriot Cool Springs.
Speaking before a luncheon audience of business leaders, elected officials and Williamson Chamber members, Millet said showing up with cash is the best way to get results toward improving one’s community — whether it’s developing a light rail system or building a new library.
And she is certainly one who has put her money where her mouth is. Lone Tree is a young community that was founded in 1996 about 20 miles south of Denver. It has grown to be one of the country’s most desirable places to live, having placed seventh on such a list by Money magazine (which happened to rank Franklin fourth.)
“During her time as mayor, the city has prioritized investment in transportation, economic development and recreational cultural amenities,” said Matt Largen, president and CEO of Williamson Inc.
In addition to several large employers, Lone Tree is home to two Regional Transportation District (RTD) light rail stations – the County Line station and Lincoln station, and offers a free shuttle through its Lone Tree Link service.
Again, Millet said dollars have led the conversations, and a get-along approach doesn’t hurt either.
“What I have learned is collaboration, collaboration, collaboration … and money speaks,” she said. “What is really a common ethic in our city is we show up with money, we don’t show up with a hand out. We say, how can you partner with us to achieve x or y?
“The other things that’s really essential to it is community engagement. When Lone Tree succeeds, we know that we go out and talk to the people that we represent, we talk to the businesses. We show up with dollars and really articulate a vision that is very much relatable to people.”
Millet is a registered civil engineer with over 18 years of progressively responsible experience directing and conducting engineering, economic and environmental analyses.
“The conversation around transportation is essential to a community, and I think it’s essential to economic development and essential to really building something special,” she said. While Lone Tree can be described as ahead of the game regarding mass transit, it also has other factors that make for a good quality of life — great neighborhoods, vibrant public spaces, thriving businesses, excellent schools and beautiful natural environments.
“We know transportation is extremely important to drive economic development in a community, but we know that’s not enough,” she stressed.
The Transportation Summit also included an update on the South Corridor study, which is evaluating transportation options along the 35-mile corridor between downtown Nashville and the city of Columbia and points along the way. Spring Hill Mayor Rick Graham spoke to the progress of the study, and encouraged audience members to take the survey that’s on the website.
“Stakeholders in this survey will be the general public, elected officials and our business community,” Graham said. “Once completed, the Greater Nashville Regional Council will publish a report outlining recommendations for implementing locally preferred transportation improvements with focus on identifying the most feasible rapid transit project.
“As a result, the formal regional transportation plan will be created and prepared by the GNRC and the Rapid Transit Authority master plan called nMotion will be updated to reflect the recommendations. The GNRC, RTA, TDOT and local governments within the corridor will coordinate to identify funding for the project.”
Ultimately, the Transportation Summit served to make getting around Williamson County and the rest of the region a priority, and to keep seeking solutions.
“There’s not a silver bullet that fixes congestion and improves circulation,” Largen said. “It’s going to take a number of things implemented in this community and across Tennessee that’s going to help everybody make their commute shorter and help reduce congestion in our community and across the region.”