Funding In Limbo For Nashville's AMP Project
by Aundrea Cline-Thomas
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Nashville residents are taking sides when it comes to the controversial AMP project. Whether you're for or against it may not matter if the project can't secure the necessary funding.
State Republicans are coming out against the plan, while federal funding is not guaranteed.
The mood was celebratory on Tuesday as AMP supporters gathered in the Mayor Karl Dean's office.
"President Barack Obama released his budget for the next fiscal year. There is a line item to provide funding for the AMP," Dean said to the elated crowd.
Cheers followed as the crowd believed the bus rapid transit project, that would connect East Nashville to the West End corridor, received a green light.
"And most importantly it has put us on track to receive the necessary monetary resources to move this project forward," Dean said in his prepared remarks.
It's not that simple.
"On the federal issues…there are many funding hurdles," U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-5th district) said. "We passed the first funding hurdle with the inclusion in the President's budget."
The Federal Transit Administration is proposing giving Nashville $75 million for the project, starting with $27 million in this upcoming fiscal year.
"But of course it's Congress that does the budget so we somehow have to get it through the House of Representatives now which is Republican and then through the Democratic Senate," Rep. Cooper added. "So we still have more funding hurdles to go."
That's where the hope for the project may begin to fade. For the past two years, because of the sequestration, Congress has reduced funding for the Transit Administration's initiatives. In fact last year the administration could not fund any new projects.
Add to that the fact that Congress has already passed a budget through 2016. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) said in a statement:
"While this budget year is settled...it wouldn't be productive to re litigate it so soon after our two year deal…"
Translation, President Obama's new initiatives, which include funding the AMP, are unlikely to be considered by Congress this year.
"As I said we will get this right. We will have a project that is good for Nashville," Mayor Dean said on Tuesday to the hopeful crowd.
The reality is, getting this right may now have less to do with influencing public opinion and more to do with securing cold hard cash.