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VOL. 129 | NO. 49 | Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bill to Block Nashville Amp Project Worries Haslam

ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press

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NASHVILLE (AP) – Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday raised concerns about efforts by fellow Republicans in the state Legislature to block a dedicated bus lane project through Nashville.

The governor told reporters after a speech to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce that although he has not formed an opinion about whether the project – called the Amp – is a good idea, he's worried about the possible precedent of legislative committees deciding over individual transportation projects in the state.

"My concern is always going to be, do we want to do transportation by legislative committee, and I don't think that's the right approach," Haslam said. "My concern is not so much the Amp as an issue, but are we doing the right thing long term in terms of how we do government?"

The legislative maneuver to block the Amp was introduced last week after President Barack Obama's administration recommended Nashville receive $27 million to help fund the Amp, the first stage of a $174 million project that would require more federal, state and city funds to complete.

The proposed 7.1-mile route bus route championed by Nashville's Democratic Mayor Karl Dean would link the eastern and western parts of the city. The Amp would run buses in dedicated lanes, free of cars, and the buses would have multiple doors to allow quick boarding and exit.

The project's most vocal critics are concentrated in affluent neighborhoods in the western part of the city and among some businesses along the proposed route, who worry about increased traffic and less on-street parking.

Many of those critics live in the district of Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell, who has also voice opposition to the project. Haslam acknowledged that this position could be at odds with those of his close ally in the House.

"The speaker represents the district, so her position is very different than mine, obviously," he said. "My position is one of I've got be concerned about the long-term consequences for how we do things in the state – not so much this project."

House Transportation Chairman Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, was the original sponsor of the measure seeking to block the Amp on the basis that it would run on city streets designated as state highways. But he said Tuesday that he had handed the measure off to Republican Rep. Mike Sparks of the Nashville suburb of Smyrna.

"I feel that it is more of a local issue than a state issue at this point," Dean said. "And that's why if the legislation moves forward, it would be more appropriate to have someone from this area have the bill."

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, told reporters last week that he is deferring to Harwell on legislation, though he expects the Amp would become a "colossal boondoggle."

But for Ralph Schulz, the president and CEO of the Nashville chamber, the effort to require legislative approval amounts to overreach by state lawmakers.

"These roads are maintained by local governments in all the cities across the state, from parking meters, to street sweeping and paving," he said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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