The upcoming East Bank project represents the historic expansion of Nashville’s urban core by transforming more than 300 acres of underutilized parking lots, industrial, and commercial use land into a vibrant mixed-use community. This article will cover the significance of the future East Bank Blvd which will serve as a critical transportation corridor for day-to-day livability on the East Bank as well as for the full slate of stadium events.
The planning and construction of a new North-South boulevard on the East Bank involves multiple state, local, public, and private entities with the goal of creating a true North/South Connection, take local traffic off the interstate, and to address barriers to connectivity created by the Cumberland River and Interstate 24.
Metro recently announced its selection of HDR as the programmanager to coordinate the entire East Bank development site. It’s expected that metro will announce the selection of a master developer for the Metro Owned parcels surrounding the new Titans stadium in the coming weeks. Redevelopment of Metro owned land includes creating a mixed-use transit hub, affordable Housing, a new central park, and a comprehensive multimodal transportation options. Slide the image for a look at Phase 1 of the East Bank redevelopment plan by Metro.
Upcoming anchor projects include Phase 1 of River North along the Cumberland River, a planned campus by Oracle, the new Titans Stadium, and the Station East Mixed-Use District. The Tennessee Performing Arts Center is also considering relocating to the East Bank further bolstering the upcoming cultural uses outlined in the Vision East Bank Plan. Additionally, Mayor John Cooper has discussed the possibility of creating a new Nashville School of the Arts on the site. The map below provides a sample of announced development projects.
The planning of East Bank Blvd is an exercise in collaboration between TDOT, NDOT, WeGo Public Transit, the Office of Planning, as well as future public private partnerships:
“This is a great opportunity for us to start fresh with a true multimodal network which will help get local traffic off interstates and create new connections into neighborhoods”.Preston J. Elliott, AICP, Deputy Commissioner/Chief Environment & Planning Division, TDOT
“We’re excited about Oracle who made a significant investment in the East Bank with the Pedestrian Bridge over the Cumberland with what we think is an impressive design”.Brad Freeze, Deputy Director, NDOT
“Currently we are a single Downtown Hub system which is bursting at the seams with 15,000 people a day In & Out. The new East Bank transit hub will allow us to relieve hub pressure at our central hub and move to a multi-hub system”.Steve Bland, CEO, WeGo Public Transit / RTA of Middle Tennessee
The road to transportation infrastructure success for the East Bank and the regional area runs through the planned East Bank Blvd – the largest traffic and transit initiative in Metro history. There are a few different initiatives being considered by the Office Of Planning, WeGo Public Transit, TDOT, and NDOT to more directly connect the East Bank to surrounding neighborhoods. Those initiates include:
- New North /South Connection via East Bank Blvd.
- New Bus Rapid Transit line.
- Pedestrian Bridge To Germantown.
- Proposed Connections to Cleveland Street.
- Proposed Connections to Grace Street.
While these connections and the multi-modal boulevard will not answer all of Nashville’s transit questions, it’s the first major effort at planning a complete street in the heart of Nashville. The new road promises to create an urban feel and flow, be dynamic enough to move large volumes of people by car, and include dedicated bus lanes to make transit more efficient. The common theme along the entire Blvd is shifting the focus from cars-only, to intentional shared uses with pedestrians and transit riders. Below is a look at some of the suggested uses. (Sections from guidance)
Here is a look at upcoming transportation infrastructure plans for the East Bank.
East Bank Blvd
NDOT has established the framework for East Bank Blvd as well as the overall multi-modal street network. Guidance around the development of street networks includes elements such as:
• Limiting the city blocks to 400 feet to encourage walkability
• Delineating elements between regional, district, and neighborhood connectors streets
• Curb Zone utilization
• Speed limits
• Alternative Transportation Options
These investments in infrastructure will help enable local traffic to move throughout the urban core and connect thousands living along the corridor to essential resources, while diverting as many as 21,400 local vehicles off the interstate each day according to a study by Metro.
The new multimodal boulevard running through the East Bank will offer a new way to get around by car, bike and foot – and will also connect to a network of mobility hubs servicing high-capacity bus rapid transit (BRT) routes including to Murfreesboro Pike, and ultimately, the airport. Here is a look at cut sections along East Bank Blvd.
East Bank Blvd multimodal infrastructure is essentially divided into 4 segments. The segment surrounding the proposed stadium has the greatest number of options, which is to be expected. NDOT noted during the interview that the “guidance” is just that and that there is room for improvement.
While most bicycle infrastructure exists on the street throughout the East Bank, it shifts to the dedicated lanes on sidewalks along the Blvd, its busiest thoroughfare. CityNowNext talked with local architectural firm Gresham Smith on their lessons learned with implementing multimodal infrastructure in Nashville and other areas, here’s what they had to say.
“You always have to look at multimodal infrastructure from a user’s perspective… If you’re not putting in something that looks comfortable, feels safe, and that really connects people to the places they want to get to, it’s not going to get used. Ultimately, all users of our roadways want the same thing as those who are driving in cars; to get to their destinations safely.”Mike Sewell, Director of Innovation at Gresham Smith.
BRT & Regional Transit Connectivity
The next evolution of mass transit for the Nashville region is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). The USDOT defines BRT as a high-quality bus-based transit system that delivers fast and efficient service that may include dedicated lanes, busways, traffic signal priority, off-board fare collection, elevated platforms and enhanced stations. Given attempts by previous mayoral administrations at rail-based options, BRT appears to have more buy-in on the city and state level. Dedicated bus lanes offer similar benefits as fixed-rail transit at a lower price.
“Phase 1 of the East Bank master development plan includes a new mixed-use transit hub. One of the benefits WeGo expressed was that now instead of a rider having to transfer downtown, there will be more one-seat rides into East Nashville.”Steve Bland, CEO, WeGo Public Transit / RTA of Middle Tennessee
East Bank Blvd will introduce the first purpose-built dedicated lane BRT for Nashville. Plans currently show dedicated bus lanes for the BRT, stretching from the planned Oracle campus to the Titans Stadium. The East Bank BRT will extend approximately 3 miles with 5 planned stations (shown below).
Additionally, plans are in the works for a new bridge connection across the Cumberland River next to I24. This extension would include dedicated bus lanes to service the new bridge, Murfreesboro Pike, and ultimately the Airport. Enforcement to keep the lanes clear for buses will be critical to success, as will be planning for game day traffic and other special events.
Pedestrian Bridge To Germantown
One of the most anticipated and architecturally significant connections is the pedestrian bridge across the Cumberland River. Funded by Oracle, the bridge will connect the East Bank to Germantown via the River North and Neuhoff District mixed-use developments.
Cleveland & Grace Streets
The East Bank Boulevard will connect the greater East Nashville community through two multimodal connections across Interstate 24. The connections are located on Cleveland and Grace Streets, both of which intersect the Dickerson Pike transit corridor. TDOT and NDOT are partnering to evaluate solutions that will reduce interstate congestion by taking local traffic off the interstate and creating new neighborhood connection points.
There are two options currently being evaluated for the Cleveland Street. The first option includes creating two new overpasses on I24 at both the northbound and southbound lanes with Cleveland Street extending below the overpasses. The second option is to extend Cleveland Street by constructing an overpass above I24. The cross section for the extensions will provide for separated bike facilities and sidewalk for non-motorized mobility options between the Cleveland Park in East Nashville, the East Bank, and to Germantown in North Nashville.
The Grace street connection serves as an extension of the multimodal bridge across the Cumberland River. This cross section for this extension provides dedicated sidewalks for pedestrians and cyclist only. New pedestrian and multimodal connections will serve as one solution for the movement of people.
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