A public workshop was held Monday night before the Board of Commissioners meeting. The topic of discussion was the proposed 2017 Comprehensive Transportation Plan and suggested revisions. Deputy Public Works Director Andy Barlow presented the changes during the meeting, some of which cause confusion among those in attendance.
One of the main concerns some residents and city officials had about the plan was regarding the implementation of medians in turning lanes along Mt. Juliet and Lebanon Roads.
Commissioner Ray Justice had concerns about the city mandating access easements through ordinances, while Commissioner Art Giles asked why they current transportation plan wasn’t just amended.
Barlow said the current plan was just a collection of different documents, various revisions of small projects over the years. The last full plan introduced and enacted was the 2008 Mt. Juliet Land Use and Transportation Plan.
Justice said he liked the plan but only if the city were starting from the beginning. He said if the city was an empty slate, the plan would be great, but the city cannot go back and “rewrite” it. He also said putting medians on Lebanon Road at Nonaville Road, which is a high crash area according to the plan would be a disaster.
Commissioner James Maness proposed taking the first 40 pages of the 90-page plan and making it its own document for reference. Commissioner Brian Abston agreed with Maness on that but would like more information from the police about the high collision areas.
Giles also said he would like to have more information from the police before passing a vote on the plan. According to him, the city needs to be given more proof if they are going to adopt a plan so controversial. He also proposed removing the information and pictures of medians if they are against them, as to clear up any misunderstanding developers may have in the future.
During Barlow’s presentation, he showed pictures of other projects similar to what he has submitted to the city. He included pictures of medians on Navy Road in Millington, Tenn., a project he oversaw while working at TDOT.
Many were concerned about the medians, picturing them as those on Golden Bear Gateway, which are continuous along the road.
This caused confusion among some residents and business owners as it was previously proposed the medians would be continuous along the roads in some areas. For example, medians have previously been proposed that would restrict access to Mt. Juliet Church of Christ.
There was also confusion over whether the plan is a formal document, requiring Mt. Juliet to follow it exactly, or if it is to serve as a guide when addressing transportation in the city.
For most of the discussion, the plan was emphasized as a guide but would serve the purpose of a formal document to provide for any use, such as TDOT wanting to view the city plans. There was concern about how the interpretation of “formal” could later mean the plan would be required.
In an effort to clear up some of the confusion, some of the language in the plan was changed to suggest guidelines instead of requirements. Words like “shall” were changed to “should” and “city engineer” to “city” to ensure a broad overview of how the City of Mt. Juliet can approach the transportation plan.
Changing the language was meant to make sure the proposed changes in the plan are suggestions, not obligations. Giles, however, quoted a Supreme Court ruling that “shall” and “should” legally mean the same, so changing those words doesn’t change the meaning in the plan.
An ordinance to adopt the 2017 Comprehensive Transportation Plan was scheduled to be read at the Board of Commissioners meeting after the workshop. However, since there was not a consensus at either meeting, the ordinance was deferred 30 days until there can be more discussion.