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TDEC, TDOT Announce Sustainable Transportation Award Winners

Wednesday, October 02, 2019 | 01:29pm

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), today announced the winners of the 2019 Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Awards.

The fifth annual Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Forum and Expo continues today at the UT Conference Center. TDEC, TDOT, and Tennessee Clean Fuels are holding the two-day conference, which began Tuesday, in downtown Knoxville.

“We are pleased to see such significant efforts in our communities to address environmental issues in transportation,” TDEC Commissioner David Salyers said.

“We have to continue to be innovative with transportation solutions for our state,” TDOT Commissioner Clay Bright said. “It is great to see our local partners implement creative projects that not only increase mobility but also have a positive impact on our environment.”

The Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Awards recognize outstanding initiatives to improve the efficiency, accessibility, affordability, and sustainability of transportation systems in the state. A panel of judges selected the following entities as the 2019 winners:

·         City of Knoxville

·         Weakley County Schools

·         Walk Bike Nashville

·         Metropolitan Nashville/Davidson County Public Works Department

·         Shelby County Health Department

·         Metropolitan Nashville/Davidson County Planning Department

·         City of Lebanon

A full description of the winning initiatives:

City of Knoxville – Cumberland Avenue Corridor Project

In 2007, the Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission and Knoxville City Council began work to reduce congestion and improve road safety on Cumberland Avenue, a busy, downtown corridor that carried between 22,000 and 34,000 trips per day. Following a series of public meetings and an iterative process of stakeholder engagement, the project team members decided to implement a “road diet,” which would reduce the street from four lanes to three lanes and introduce a median to direct left turn movements. Since the city completed the project in August 2017, the rate of vehicle crashes and bike and pedestrian conflicts with vehicles has decreased by about 30 percent, the economic investment has improved (the project has leveraged $190 million of private investment), and the street is more attractive (there are now trees, trash and recycle receptacles, benches, and decorative lighting). New and accessible transit shelters provide a safe, comfortable place for pedestrians to wait for buses along the corridor, elevating the experience of public transportation for all users. The project has also created improvements to public health, well-being, and safety through the redevelopment of vacant brownfield sites, storm water runoff absorption, and a reduction in the urban heat island effect.

Weakley County Schools – Propane School Bus Adoption

Weakley County Schools has committed significant resources toward the implementation of clean, efficient energy throughout its school system. The project started with building-level initiatives such as an LED lighting conversion, an HVAC and insulation system update, and the adoption of a school recycling program. This initiative has since expanded to the vehicle fleet through the adoption of propane-powered school buses. In 2017-2018, Weakley County Schools leveraged support from the Reducing Diesel Emissions for a Healthier Tennessee rebate program to purchase its first three propane school buses. The district also adopted an idle reduction policy, to minimize unnecessary idling by school bus drivers. As a result of the project, the district is saving almost $2,000 per bus each year from reduced fuel costs; the district is also realizing additional savings as a result of decreased maintenance costs. Weakley County Schools has purchased and installed its own propane refueling station and plans to purchase an additional nine propane school buses over the next two years. Not only is the district saving energy and reducing emissions through the use of propane autogas, but it has also developed a replicable model for fleet improvement, efficiency, and cost savings that other school districts can follow.

Walk Bike Nashville – Safe Routes to School

Walk Bike Nashville has been offering Safe Routes to School programs to Metro Nashville Public Schools since 1998. In 2018, Walk Bike Nashville modified its approach to collect data and gauge the impacts of the program. To gauge interest and to measure existing transportation habits, Walk Bike Nashville distributed surveys to both students and parents. The baseline data that was gathered through the surveys will allow Walk Bike Nashville to measure impacts to travel behavior in the school community moving forward. Along with the surveys, Walk Bike Nashville also developed and distributed Walking Encouragement maps and hosted a series of bike rodeos to demonstrate road safety and practical skills for biking. In December 2018, Walk Bike Nashville also collaborated with data analytics company Zendrive and the Nashville Civic Design Center to explore solutions to reduce speeding and distracted driving near Amqui Elementary School. Through a strategy of “tactical urbanism,” the school engaged students to design a traffic calming mural that buffers students from traffic and provides a safer walking path to school. In total, 55 Metro Nashville schools participated in the 2018 International Walk to School Day, with 14,000 participants walking on that day. Through the data that was collected in 2018, Walk Bike Nashville hopes to continue to expand this number and to create a replicable model to facilitate more Safe Routes to School programs citywide.

Metropolitan Nashville/Davidson County Public Works Department

– Music Row Bikeway

Working alongside Metro Nashville-Davidson County Public Works, KCI Technologies served as the lead traffic engineer to design and implement the state’s first and longest left-side-protected bike lane along Nashville’s iconic Music Row. The project sets standards for how traditional one-way roads can be used to efficiently move traffic while also safely accommodating bicyclists and pedestrians. With an end goal of increasing bicycle usage and safety along this high-traffic-volume roadway, this project successfully added three miles of highly visible and protected bikeway, created physical separation between the bike lane and the adjacent traffic lane, and provided a mechanism to give cyclists priority at high-volume, signalized intersections through the use of bike boxes. This design challenged the norm in typical bike lane applications: the use of bike boxes on left-side-protected bike lanes is fairly uncommon, and therefore required experimental approval by the Federal Highway Administration. This project has therefore helped to not only increase bike travel along the Music Row Corridor, but also to change the national understanding of bicycle and pedestrian applications on this type of roadway.

Shelby County Health Department – Memphis Area Rideshare Program

The Memphis Area Rideshare program works with area employers to organize employees in carpools and vanpools, with a goal of improving air quality through the reduction of single occupant vehicles on the road. In one year, the program has increased the number of vanpools at the Memphis Veterans Affairs hospital from 28 to 35 vans. The program has also launched 10 active vanpools at the federal prison facility and three active vanpools at Atara Biotherapeutics Inc. These vanpools are responsible for removing 192 cars off the road each day, which saves $30,833 in fuel costs and reduces carbon monoxide emissions by approximately 5.16 tons per month.

Metropolitan Nashville/Davidson County Planning Department – Nashville Connector

Nashville Connector, Davidson County’s first transportation demand management program, seeks to help employers and employees in the Nashville region plan for a better commute. The program assists individuals and companies alike in identifying bus, carpool, train, and walking/biking commuter options available to commuters in the Nashville area. In October 2018, Nashville Connector held its inaugural Commuter Challenge for Nashville’s downtown commuters, encouraging them to not drive alone for at least one trip to work during the week and to instead utilize alternative forms of transportation and/or work remotely. Nashville Connector followed the success of this program with a second Commuter Challenge in April-May 2019. Collectively, over 40 downtown employers and 1,500 individuals participated in the Challenges, replacing 8,700 solo vehicle trips with alternative transportation options that could include carpooling, riding a bike or scooter, taking public transit, walking to work, or working from home. By encouraging Middle Tennesseans to consider alternative transportation options, Nashville Connector is helping to reduce reliance on single occupancy vehicles, decrease congestion, and improve local air quality.

City of Lebanon - Music City Star Hamilton Springs Station

The Music City Star is a commuter rail service that runs between Nashville and Lebanon, Tenn. The service uses the existing track of the Nashville and Eastern Railroad and includes stops at a total of seven stations. In 2018, city officials, the Regional Transportation Authority, the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, and private partners worked to expand the line to include a third station in Lebanon, at Hamilton Springs. The station was built around principles of transit-oriented development and was incorporated into a new, planned community, with housing and retail development located within walking distance from the station. Lebanon already accounts for the highest number of riders on the commuter rail line. As the city sits within the third fastest growing county in Tennessee, expanded access to the line for new Lebanon residents will encourage additional ridership and uptake of this sustainable commuter option.

More information on the Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Awards can be found at http://www.sustainabletransportationforum.com