Northwest Corridor Initial Feasibility Study

Study Overview

The purpose of this initial feasibility study was to look at the corridor between Clarksville and Nashville and determine if commuter rail is feasible in this corridor, determine the most likely alignment, develop a preliminary capital cost estimate, and a potential operating schedule and operations budget.  The results of the study will allow the officials involved to make a more informed decision on whether to invest in the next steps toward a commuter rail.

The scope of the study included:
• Explore potential alignments for the commuter rail
• Determine the most feasible route
• Determine improvements needed on that route
• Study of the capital costs needed
• Develop potential operating schedules
• Develop a preliminary operations budget
• Research the next steps necessary to develop the corridor

For the purpose of this study, three alignments were studied, the I24 Corridor, CSX through Springfield, and the Nashville and Western Railroad. 

Major Findings

I­24 Corridor

The first corridor that was explored was the existing Interstate 24 route from mile marker 4 in Clarksville to downtown Nashville.This alignment would be 45 miles long and typically utilize either the median or the shoulder of Interstate 24 as dictated by the terrain. The alignment would start with a station near the new Gateway Medical Center and the RJ Corman railroad just south of Exit 4 on the interstate. Following the interstate, intermediate stations would include south Clarksville near exit 11, Pleasant View at Exit 24, Joelton at Exit 35. The terminus for the alignment would be the Clement Landport in downtown Nashville, TN.

Positives:
• Public ROW from Clarksville to Briley Parkway.
• Curvature from Clarksville to Briley Parkway allows for 59 to 79 mph operating speeds.
• Overall trip time from Clarksville to Nashville of 55 to 60 minutes (this assumes that there are no regular delays at Kayne Avenue Yard).
• Desirable Station locations in South Clarksville, Pleasant View and Joelton.
• Ability to expand system to Downtown Clarksville using RJ Corman’s line.
• Limited to no interaction in between commuter trains and freight trains except for downtown Nashville.

Negatives:
• Extensive property acquisition will be required in Nashville, affecting both residences and businesses.
• Running through CSX Transportation’s Kayne Avenue yard will increase operating expenses, commute time and coordination efforts.
• Capital Cost of approximately $300 million due to new bridge over the Cumberland River, interstate interchanges, vehicular barrier walls, and new alignment from Briley Parkway to Downtown.
• The grade heading out of Nashville up the Highland Rim exceeds 4% which is exceeds industry recommendations for maximum grade and would likely require new locomotives and vehicles.

Springfield

The second corridor explored was along the RJ Corman Railroad from Downtown Clarksville to their interchange with CSX in Guthrie, Kentucky, down CSX’s line through Adams, Springfield, Greenbrier, Ridgetop, Goodlettsville and into downtown Nashville. This alignment would be 63 miles long. The Clarksville Terminus would be downtown with an additional station near the Gateway Medical Center.  Intermediate stations would likely be located in Springfield, Greenbrier and Goodlettsville.  The terminus for the alignment would be the Clement Landport in downtown Nashville. 


Positives:
• Existing infrastructure and right‐of‐way.
• Desirable Station locations in Springfield and Goodlettsville.
• Downtown Clarksville Station.
• Few if any residences or business will need to be relocated.

Negatives:
• Overall trip time from Clarksville to Nashville of 65 to 75 minutes.
• Use of CSX’s main lines is very unlikely due to high volume of freight trains currently using the line.  It would likely be necessary to double track the whole line from Guthrie to Nashville including a new bridge over the Cumberland River.
• Capital Cost’s are unknown until a rough scope of work that CSX would require is established.
• Project crosses over a state line which would add to the complexity of the project due to the additional bureaucracy of another state to coordinate with and seek approval of. It is possible that a new interchange track could be built that would “cut the corner” and eliminate Kentucky from the project.  

Nashville & Western Railroad

The last alignment that was looked at was along the Nashville & Western railroad. This line originally was a Tennessee Central Railroad line from Hopkinsville, Kentucky through Clarksville and Ashland City to Nashville. The northern portion of the line beyond Ashland City was abandoned, but the roadbed from Ashland City to Clarksville is largely still in place. This line would be 43 miles long with a travel time of 48 ‐ 55 minutes. The Clarksville Terminus would be near Madison Street and Golf Club Lane. At start‐up the only Intermediate station would be in Ashland City. An intermediate station might be located in Scottsboro if the Maytown development in the Bell’s Bend area of Nashville ever proceeds. The terminus for the alignment would be in the Mid‐Town area of Nashville.  A station near Farmer’s Market or at Clement Landport is also a possibility.

Positives:
• Existing road bed  
• Willing host railroad
• 29 of the 43 miles of right‐of‐way are publicly owned (Cheatham County Railroad Authority, Town of Ashland City, and City of Clarksville).
• Short trip time of approximately 50 minutes is shorter than current commute time even considering time spent on shuttles to / from station.
• The bridge over the Cumberland River has a separate funding source (savings of $35 to $40 million)

• Does not have to involve CSX at time of start‐up

Negatives:
• Likely less ridership at intermediate station(s) than other routes
• Nashville Terminus will not be tied into other commuter rail lines at start‐up even though that option would exist as future expansion.
• The Cumberland River Bicentennial Trail will be impacted by the line.


Recommendations

The study states that as this study was just one of the very first steps in establishing a commuter rail line in between Clarksville and Nashville, it is recommended that the parties sponsoring this study meet to discuss the results of the study. If it is determined that additional progress toward a commuter rail is desired, the next steps are:
1) Initial Notification – The Initial Notification Report should be submitted to the FTA to make them aware that this corridor is being considered.
2) Review the Feedback 
4) Alternatives Analysis – A full scale alternatives analysis will need to be conducted for the corridor. 


Information

Contact

Links

What

  • Northwest Corridor Initial Feasibility Study

Completion Date

  • 2008

Consultants

  • Nashville Western Rail Authority
    CSR Engineering

Study Partners

  • Nashville Area MPO
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