Here is a summary of frequently asked questions gleaned from 36 online responses so far from residents. Answers are provided by the Communications Office, based on the actual report and more information supplied by City Departments involved in shaping the Transportation 2020+ Strategy.
A: The study period is 2020 to 2040, when the Clarksville area population is expected to swell by 40 percent, or an additional 90,455 new residents, yielding a total population of 298,919. The reality is that Clarksville’s road network and transportation infrastructure must be expanded and improved because of this expected increased volume on area roadways.
A: The plan is divided into three tiers, based on priority needs, and designed to guide work over the next 20 years. Some of the major Tier 1 projects are already underway, such as planning for the Spring Creek Parkway, the Whitfield-Needmore Road project near Glenellen Elementary, and the Tylertown-Oakland Road project. Other projects in Tier 1 are clearly identified, but require funding commitments by the City Council before preliminary design can begin.
Mayor Pitts also has stressed that the Strategy is flexible and can change based on input by the City Council and residents. Because of funding limitations, it is envisioned that the Strategy will unfold sequentially over the next two decades, with the most important and critical improvements coming first, and others emerging over time.
A: It is a huge amount of money, but it is a well-researched projection of just how much funding will be needed over the next two decades to improve Clarksville’s transportation network and prevent gridlock, ensure mobility options and provide safe roads. It also is an indication of just how dramatic the City’s growth has been, how far behind we are, and how much is needed to keep pace with the true needs of the transportation system. No one is suggesting these projects will be done all at once, and the spending will be managed over decades, not in a lump sum.
A: In general, local government is funded by the taxpayers, for the taxpayers’ benefit. This is how a municipal government pays for roads, police and fire departments, public parks and recreation facilities, and so forth.
Right now, Clarksville’s property tax rate is $1.0296 per $100 of assessed value, much lower than several comparable cities, such as Chattanooga at $2.277, Knoxville at $2.4638 and Murfreesboro at $1.2894. The City of Clarksville gets to keep a portion of the sales taxes collected in the City, the balance of which is directed to the State and the local school system. Overall, the City’s General Fund -- the portion used to pay for roads, public safety, parks and recreation, and debt service -- totals about $108 million per year.
Tennessee Law provides for property tax relief for low-income elderly and disabled homeowners, as well as disabled veteran homeowners or their surviving spouses. Tax collecting officials, including the County Trustee and the City Revenue Office, receive applications from taxpayers who may qualify. Information is available online here.
Clarksville’s rapid growth over the past four decades exerts pressure on all parts of the General Fund. More businesses and more people create the need for more police officers and police facilities, more firefighters, fire facilities and equipment, more parks and recreation facilities and programs -- and more roads and transportation infrastructure.
After accounting for all the other needs, only a portion of the City’s general revenue is available in any given year to build and improve the roads. That portion provides only enough annual debt service to enable borrowing about $40 million for road projects. Without new revenues dedicated to transportation projects, the City simply doesn’t have enough money available to overcome its pressing near and long-term transportation needs.
A: Most of Clarksville’s main thoroughfares -- such as Wilma Rudolph Boulevard (US 79), Warfield Boulevard/101st Parkway (SR 374), Trenton Road (SR 48), Rossview Road (SR 237) , Tiny Town Road (SR 236/6310), Fort Campbell Boulevard (US 41A/SR 12) and Madison Street (US 41A/SR 112) -- are federal or state routes identified by the US or SR designation. These routes are owned, maintained and/or controlled by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Usually, any improvements such as widening and repaving of these routes are planned, contracted and funded by TDOT. The City can’t widen or repave Madison Street (US 41A/SR 112), for example, because it can’t spend City money on something it doesn’t own.
City and County governments work with TDOT and the state lawmakers who represent our area to help set priorities and recommend improvements to state routes, but TDOT ultimately makes the decisions about project design and funding. Sometimes, TDOT has agreed to speed up projects in exchange for the City or County contributing money for part of a priority project, such as design work or right-of-way acquisition. This arrangement was used on the recently completed Warfield Boulevard/SR 376 project, and is being used on the Rossview Road/SR 237 project underway near the Rossview Schools Campus.
Actually, TDOT has been generous to Clarksville-Montgomery County in recent years. For example, the state is spending millions on the ongoing replacement and expansion of the McClure Bridge over the Cumberland(SR13/48), and has spent millions on the expansion of Interstate 24 Exit 8, which serves major new industrial development such as Hankook Tire. TDOT also widened US 41A/SR 112 (Madison Street/Nashville Highway) from McAdoo Creek Road to M.L. King Blvd (SR 76) and is adding sidewalks to stretches of Wilma Rudolph Boulevard and Fort Campbell Boulevard.
The proposed extension of State Route 374 from Dover Road (US 79) to State Route 149, which will add another bridge over the Cumberland and create a loop around Clarksville, is currently in progress, with some construction on SR 149 and other parts in the Planning and Environmental phase. All this TDOT work, including the planned expansion of Trenton Road, totals hundreds of millions of dollars of additional, and necessary, TDOT-funded roadwork in and around Clarksville that is noted but not included in the City’s strategic transportation plan.
The Transportation 2020+ Strategy primarily reflects additions and improvements to City-owned transportation systems. For example, the proposed Spring Creek Parkway will be a City-owned thoroughfare connecting the fast-growing residential area around Exit 1 with the primary commercial district around Governor’s Square Mall. It is needed to add capacity and take pressure off of existing state routes such as the 101st Parkway, Trenton Road and Exits 1 and 4.
Whitfield Road and Needmore Road are City streets, as are Tylertown Road and Oakland Road. Thus the major improvements to those roads envisioned in Transportation 2020+ around Glenellen Elementary and Oakland Elementary, respectively, will have to be done by the City and its taxpayers. If not, along with hundreds of millions worth of other necessary City road projects, they will never be done, and road congestion and gridlock will worsen.
A: The Tennessee Department of Transportation controls Interstate 24, and TDOT would have to approve and pay for a new interchange. Local government could not simply decide to build an “Exit 6.” While this improvement has been requested by Clarksville and Montgomery County several times, TDOT has not endorsed the idea. Basically state highway officials have said it is too close to Exit 4 and Exit 8 and does not meet TDOT design and safety criteria. So far, TDOT has not included an Exit 6 on any of its project planning lists.
A: This is a state project, and the funding and construction timetable is in the hands of TDOT. The proposed extension of State Route 374 from Dover Road to State Route 149, which will add another bridge over the Cumberland and create a loop around Clarksville, is an active and ongoing project in two phases that is moving through the state process of design, right of way acquisition, and construction. Full details about the project are online here.
While this is an important project of which City transportation planners are well aware, this project is not in the City of Clarksville, and therefore it is not included in Transportation 2020+ Strategy.
A: Clarksville Transit System is a service for citizens that is 75% funded by federal and state resources, so it is a good value for Clarksville. Not everybody uses the bus system, but for those who do, it provides essential transportation to jobs, shopping, schools and colleges and medical appointments. Plus, the system includes special services such as The Lift and Paratransit vans that provide transportation options for elderly and disabled citizens at low cost.
A: We understand that not everyone is familiar with roundabouts and this will be a new traffic flow design for our community. But roundabouts, or traffic circles, have been used successfully for years in many locations.
Based on the engineering study of the Whitfield/Needmore intersection, the roundabout option is considered the preferred alternative for these reasons:
- Reduces vehicle delay and provides a greater Level of Service/traffic flow.
- Improves safety by reducing severe right-angle crashes.
- Is more environmentally sustainable by reducing idling vehicles sitting at traffic signals.
- Is not prone to the mechanical/electrical failures experienced by traffic signals.
A: Questions and suggestions about improving traffic signals were shared by several commenters. The Street Department recognizes the value of synchronization and consistently monitors and evaluates traffic signals' performance, especially when signals are added or replaced.
Overall, of the City's 102 traffic signal locations, 65 are connected to computer software that allows remote adjustments, while some have video detection capabilities. The others are simply programmed to a set time. The Street Department also has six closed-circuit TV cameras, which can view traffic conditions at specific locations.
Also, a major upgrade on this front is on the horizon. The department is using a $1.2 million federal grant to implement a major computerized (smart) synchronization system that will coordinate 11 intersections on Wilma Rudolph Boulevard from I-24 to the 101st Parkway. The system will use technology to adjust signal performance using actual real-time data. A consultant is working on the system design, and pending TDOT approval, it will be installed and operating in about 12 months.
A: Traffic signals are added only when data such as traffic counts and accident history indicates a signal is needed to improve traffic flow and/or travel safety.
A: The plan to widen SR-48/Trenton Road from two lanes to five lanes along existing alignment from near SR-374 (101st Parkway) to near I-24 (Exit 1) is steadily moving up TDOT's project list (STIP # 2063065). The total project cost is $47.4 million.
Preliminary engineering is scheduled for 2022 and right of way acquisition is scheduled for 2023 with construction projected to begin in 2024. The City and County have consistently requested TDOT move this project up the list. After passage of the Improve Act by the State Legislature, TDOT agreed to speed up the pace, largely because of the City's intention to move forward with the Spring Creek Parkway, which would intersect with Trenton Road near NEHS.
Trenton Road is not included as a Transportation 2020+ project, because it is 100% funded by the State. But it is shown as a projected improvement on the plan’s overall projects map. Complete details of the SR 48 project are online here.
A: The pandemic won't go on forever, but our road needs will remain until they are corrected. City leaders think it would be unwise to stop planning for future road improvements until after the pandemic is over.
A: The short answer is no, but the long answer is we agree with you that littering remains a big and embarrassing problem in our community, and we are working to fight it.
Transportation 2020+ is primarily a road system and mobility improvement strategy involving capital projects. Litter abatement is more of an operations budget matter. A portion of the Street Department's annual operating budget does go to removing trash and debris, but these resources are limited.
Littering is illegal, after all, and it reflects a lack of pride of community and a deficit of personal responsibility among our citizenry. Rather than spending more and more public money picking up trash, a better approach may be to promote better behavior by our citizens. We do try to use our communication channels to promote cleanup and anti-litter efforts. We'll also be promoting the communitywide #GreatAmericanCleanUp at 8 a.m. on April 24,so please join in.
A: The Transportation 2020+ Strategy targets sidewalk improvements primarily around schools and areas that are likely to see increased pedestrian traffic, such as providing access to the proposed new library in North Clarksville. We think a comprehensive transportation plan should reflect some investment to make Clarksville more walkable and bikeable. For example, the Tier 1 projects total $178 million, which includes $32 million for sidewalks and bike paths. But you're right, roads are the big need, and much of the projected investment is in major roadway projects.
A: Many of Clarksville’s key routes -- such as Rossview Road and Trenton Road -- are state routes owned and controlled by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Usually, improvements such as widening and repaving of these routes are planned, contracted and funded by TDOT. (A plan to widen SR 237 Rossview Road from I-24 to Warfield was proposed by TDOT about 20 years ago, but residents along the route aggressively protested the project, and TDOT withdrew it.) Now, the City of Clarksville is working jointly with TDOT for much-needed improvements to Rossview and Dunbar Cave roads near the Rossview schools campus. The Rossview Road work is listed in the Transportation 2020+ because significant City funding is involved in the joint project.
A: The plan and cost estimates were developed by a study team that included the City Traffic Engineer, Street Department Director, Metropolitan Planning Organization Director, Regional Planning Commission Director and other City Department leaders. The projects listed are at varying stages of planning and engineering. Some Tier 1 projects such as Rossview Road and Needmore/Whitfield Road are actually underway and more advanced, so cost estimates are firmer. Also, many of the Tier 2 and 3 projects are pre-engineering estimates.
A: The City of Clarksville Transportation 2020+ Strategy does not envision any local commuter rail projects.
A large regional study completed in 2017 looked at the Interstate 24 Corridor from Clarksville to Nashville and suggested several strategies, including consideration of a $400 million commuter rail line running along the Cumberland River. This document was part of the planning process connected to the large transit upgrade proposed for Metro Nashville, which was resoundingly defeated by voters there. The Northwest Corridor Study may be reviewed online here.