Construction on the $4.1 million project began last week with a ground-breaking ceremony.
Bell discussed several questions about the train station he said he is asked regularly. The top question, he said, is about whether the train station will be open to the public.
“Yes, it is,” Bell said. “This is not a private Hamilton Springs station. There will be a parking lot just like you see at all the other stations. Anybody can board the train there at Hamilton Springs.”
Bell also addressed funding for the station. The property where it will be located was donated by the Bell family, and funding for the project comes from both private and public entities, including local, state and federal bodies. The Regional Transit Authority oversees the railway line.
“It truly is a public-private partnership, and RTA from day one was really excited by that,” Bell said.
Bell said the project helps make Lebanon’s public transportation options the envy of surrounding areas. At the groundbreaking for the station, Bell said he saw the Gallatin mayor and Sumner County mayor, and they said they wanted their area to be the next to get a major public transit project.
“Over the past year, I’ve been going through a program called Leadership Middle Tennessee, and you go visit other counties, and from talking to the leaders of those counties, Sumner County wants a train, Rutherford County wants a train, Williamson County wants a train, Montgomery County wants a train,” Bell said.
“They all want a commuter rail going from their cities, their counties, going into Nashville, and that’s what we have here in Lebanon.”
Bell said the train, and new stations and developments along the line, have benefits even for people who do not ride the train.
“A lot of people look at the train and think, ‘well, I’m never going to ride the train, why do we need that?’” Bell said. “Right now 1,000 people ride the train every day. That’s 1,000 cars that are not getting on the interstate.”
With projected growth in Wilson County, Bell said alternate modes of transportation are a necessity.
“We have to be ready for that growth, because it’s coming,” he said.
Bell said the estimated time for the station to be operating is sometime in early 2018.
Bell is a Lebanon native and a graduate of Cumberland University and Middle Tennessee State University. Bell has worked in the Cumberland University history department since 2001. He is also the city historian for Lebanon and councilor for Ward 6 in Lebanon, as well as a member of the Lebanon Noon Rotary Club.