“There is no such thing as a free lunch” is an adage many students learn in an introductory economics course. Perhaps that adage could apply to Mayor Megan Barry’s $9 billion transit plan as well.
NoTax4Tracks, the PAC opposing the May 1 referendum in Nashville/Davidson County on a proposed increase in sales and hotel taxes is making that point.
“We’re talking about the $1.5-billion hole in the city’s $9-billion light rail plan,” the PAC said in a press release. “Why is it a big hole? Because the city has said their plan has $1.5-billion in funding they plan getting from the federal government.
“Except they’re not.”
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) said its budget: “…includes no funding for new CIG (capital investment grant) projects, and thus project sponsors that do not yet have construction grant agreements acknowledge they are undertaking additional work at their own risk which may not receive CIG funding.”
The FTA added it will accept new grant applications with the understanding no funding is guaranteed.
So how will Barry fill a $1.5-billion dollar shortfall, NoTax4Tracks asks.
WSMV reports the plan’s $9 billion estimate is buried deep within the “Let’s Move Nashville: Metro’s Transportation Solution” report of Dec. 13, 2017: on Page 50. The Barry administration’s $5 billion touted price tag would cover only light rail. Additional price points include bus enhancements at $1 billion, and interest and financing for another $1 billion.
“Walter Searcy is a spokesman for “Transit for Nashville,” a group that supports the mayor’s plan. He seemed unaware of what was included in the $9 billion figure, WSMV reports.
“I’m glad you brought that to my attention because these are not figures we are typically queried about,” Searcy said.
Searcy said pinning down the exact cost of the transit project is difficult.
“It’s purely speculation how much it will actually be,” Searcy said. “It could be less than $9 billion, it could be more than $9 billion.”
Then there are city plans to spend $2 million of taxpayer funds on public service announcements and other city efforts, NoTax4Tracks said in its press release. The PAC questioned the legality of such a plan.
The transit plan is available here.
NoTax4Tracks encourages taxpayers to ask the city or the campaign organizers this: “If the federal government isn’t contributing to the transit plan, how are you going to fill that $1.5-billion hole?”