By mtjulietintern

The Nashville Regional Transit Authority is one step closer to officially naming an operator for the Music City Star after almost a yearlong process.

Last year, Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, who also serves as the Nashville Regional Transit Authority vice chair, said the group is required to issue a request for proposals for RTA services every five years as a condition of state and federal funding. 

The Music City Star began service under contract with Transit Solutions Group on Sept. 18, 2006 and travels on 32 miles of track between Nashville and Lebanon, which is owned by the Nashville and Eastern Railroad Authority. 

According to Regional Transit Authority data, more than 2.2 million passenger trips were recorded as of August, and Hutto said feedback about the current operator was positive. 

Transit Solutions submitted a proposal to operate the service last year, along with First Transit.

Transit Solution’s proposal included a base bid of about $8.8 million for five years and about $19 million for 10 years. First Transit’s proposal included a base bid of about $9.8 million for five years and about $20 million for 10 years.

This week, the Regional Transit Authority finance committee recommended Transit Solutions Group for the service, not to exceed about $9.4 million for the first five years, including mobilization, monthly base fees, station utilities and special event train service.

The Regional Transit Authority will discuss the agreement, along with the group’s upcoming fiscal year budget, next week in Nashville.

Mt. Juliet became a talking point during this week’s meeting, according to Cheryl Lewis, of Lebanon, who attended the meeting.

According to Regional Transit Authority records, Mt. Juliet has not financially contributed to the Music City Star operation at least since 2016, although the city annually budgeted about $30,000, about $25,000 less than Lebanon and $20,000 less than Wilson County.

“The city of Mt. Juliet does contribute to RTA via all maintenance, upkeep, repair and emergency services to the train station/depot,” said Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenny Martin. “In past years, the city also contributed an additional annual $30,000 contribution to the RTA beyond our annual dues and bountiful in-kind services, but those contributions have been shifted in recent years to more pressing local infrastructure needs throughout our city.”

Martin said Mt. Juliet infrastructure projects, such as Golden Bear Gateway, an adaptive signals upgrade, lighting at the city’s Interstate 40 interchange and other road projects demanded the city’s attention and money.

“The city is very proud of the projects we are conducting and feel we have a wonderful relationship and partnership with RTA. Again, we’d like to contribute more but have to put all of our more pressing local infrastructure needs first on our priority needs list,” Martin said. “We will continue to work well with and support the RTA and all of our partners as we always have and always will.”

Music City Star service begins in the East Corridor and runs from Lebanon to downtown Nashville and includes six stations – Lebanon, Martha, Mt. Juliet, Hermitage, Donelson and Riverfront Station. 

For more information on the Music City Star, visit musiccitystar.org.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com