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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -
Few topics are hotter in Nashville right now than mass transit, so even an announcement that the Nashville MTA was awarded a big federal grant to make bus travel quicker was met with protesters Friday.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced a $10 million grant that will help MTA improve service on Murfreesboro Pike.
That's MTA's second-busiest route, with close to 900,000 trips over the past year.
"This is the beginning of a transformation of transit for our entire county and region, and we need that transformation because the world around us is changing," said Mayor Karl Dean.
The money will pay for a new Transit Signal Priority system, which will allow buses to communicate with traffic lights, guaranteeing they stay on schedule.
"That may not sound very innovative, but the effect is to reduce the travel times on that bus route by a fifth or more," said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff.
The grant also pays for upgraded pedestrian crosswalks, sidewalks, bus shelters and real-time signs, so passengers know when the next bus will arrive.
"I think it'll make it more efficient, more attractive and it will be something that will help anybody who's using transit in that corridor," Dean said.
The city will rely on similar technology for its AMP project, the bus rapid transit system planned to connect St. Thomas on the west side to Five Points on the east.
Those opposed to that proposed project tried to protest Friday's news conference, only to be warned by five police officers about trespassing on MTA property.
They held their signs, instead, on the nearby public sidewalk as the mayor defended the project and what he considers the bigger picture.
"As a city, I think it's key for us to keep moving forward and address the growing population and address the growing congestion on our roads, and we have to do that now," Dean said.
The new equipment on Murfreesboro Pike should be online in the coming months.
As for The Amp, the federal government should announce its decision later this fall.
If approved, construction would take about two years.
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