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NERA suggests $2 rail fee
Apr 30, 2004 12:00 am
Officials with the Nashville & Eastern Rail Authority are working toward a proposal to raise auto emission inspection fees in Wilson and Davidson counties by $2 as a means of funding operational costs associated with a planned commuter rail line.
NERA Chairman Mike Jennings said Tuesday he proposed the plan during a meeting of the authority's executive committee while "batting around" ideas for a permanent funding mechanism.
"There seems to be some question from the state and from everybody about how we're going to fund the operational costs of this long term," Jennings commented.
He explained the idea of raising the auto emission inspection fee had been "kicked around in the past," adding he believed it would benefit both the commuter rail system and local residents.
"Right now, we're paying $10, and all we get is a certificate saying your car is good … My suggestion was – if they're going to follow that avenue of trying to increase that to use the extra money to pay for commuter rail – in return for that extra $2, we give the owner of that car one free round-trip ticket on the commuter rail," Jennings explained.
He said motorists would "get a little something" for the extra $2 and, if the free ticket is used, receive a proper introduction to the commuter rail system.
"If you're going to assess a fee against somebody, my theory was to at least give them something in return," Jennings said. "This does that."
Noting the idea had only been discussed at the NERA Executive Committee meeting, Jennings said there is currently no estimate regarding how much revenue the proposed $2 increase would generate.
And while Jennings added he thought the idea would be taken to state lawmakers by the Regional Transit Authority next year, a recent letter to RTA Commuter Rail Project Manager Allyson Shumate from NERA Managing Director Val Kelley suggested otherwise.
"We plan to propose to the Wilson County state legislators for introduction in the 104th General Assembly a $2 RTA transportation fee to be collected at the auto emissions inspection stations," Kelley wrote in the letter dated April 20, 2004. " … The process will be started in Wilson and Davidson counties and progress to the other seven counties as rail service is implemented.
This letter is a request that you furnish the Nashville and Eastern Rail Authority with vehicle registration data for the nine counties."
A call to Shumate for comment Tuesday was not immediately returned.