July 2009 Archives

Last Thursday's transportation committee was pathetic. Metro Councilman Ken Flemming decided not to consider the Ward-Pugh/Owen resolution to seek public input before initiating the tolling authority process. Instead, Flemming rubber stamped the Tandy/Kramer resolution to ask the Mayor to set up a tolling authority.

The Ward-Pugh/Owen resolution which was never read in committee contained the following:

 WHEREAS, the Kentucky General Assembly granted to the Louisville Metro Council [the "Council"] the authority to duly consider and determine the need for the creation of a Bi-State Infrastructure Authority for projects in Louisville Metro; and

 WHEREAS, the Kentucky General Assembly granted to the Council the flexibility to modify an existing project as necessary due to changing circumstances; and

 WHEREAS, the Ohio River Bridges Project (ORBP) is now estimated to cost $4.1 Billion; and

 WHEREAS, it is now clear that the ORBP must be paid for primarily with tolls instead of by Federal and State road funds generated by taxes already being paid; and

 WHEREAS it is not known how much tolls will cost or on which bridges they will be imposed, though it is likely they will be on all the bridges and not just newly constructed ones; and

 WHEREAS, a study by Wilbur Smith and Associates released in February 2008 indicated that it might be necessary to toll existing bridges as well as new bridges at a rate of $3 per crossing to generate enough revenue to pay for the ORBP; and 

This afternoon the Transportation Committee of Metro Council gave the Tolling Authority resolution the rubber stamp. Despite articulate pleas by Councilwoman Ward-Pugh and Councilman Owen for public involvement, the four other present transportation committee members abdicated their responsibility to govern and passed the resolution.

8664 Releases Polling Data

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Today, we issued a Press Release and released  polling data indicating strong support for the East End Bridge within Louisville Metro. Now is a critical time for the citizens and elected leaders of this city to make a smart and informed decision.

More national attention on our fight

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Today Streetblog.org ran a story entitled: Fighting to take back Lousiville's Waterfront. Streetsblog is a daily news source, online community and political mobilizer for the Livable Streets movement.

James Welch Jr. says his views have "evolved"

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If you read today's Letter to the Editor, you learned that James Welch, Jr., the past President of River Fields (the organization who has fought construction of the East End Bridge) and current Chairman of the Downtown Development Corporation says he now supports the "entire" bridges project. 

In River Fields' 1994 Press Release to push for the Downtown Bridge, Mr. Welch was adamently opposed to the East End Bridge:

"Improving access to a small portion of the community [by building an East End Bridge] while access across the overall region continues to suffer is absurd and hurts more citizens than it helps."

Note: According to the Environmental Impact Statement, the East End Bridge provides better access across the overall region. 

As Chairman of the Build the Bridges Coalition finance committee, Mr. Welch has been an advocate for using tolls to pay for the "entire" Bridges Project.

In unrelated news, River Fields appears pleased that tolls might be used to build the Bridges Project. Their attorney had this to say:

"We look forward to participating in the review that will be necessary to comply with environmental laws if tolls are chosen as part of this financial plan."

Another great post on Brokensidewalk

Today's Brokensidewalk post tackles some very important issues about peoples misperceptions about 8664 and the growing body of evidence to support "highway relocation". Here are just a few:

"the 8664.org proposal isn't exactly a highway removal as much as a highway relocation."

"As interest in the city and urban living continues to build, the prospects for quality of life increases, development opportunity, all while maintaining a functioning transportation system are catching the eye of innovative leaders and cities."

"One of the great things about the 8664.org plan is that it doesn't just solve a transportation problem in a more fiscally responsible manner, but also drastically raises Louisville's urban standard of living and provides for huge potential gains in community and real-estate development."

And much more. Heading over to brokensidewalk.com and read the entire post.

We need answers from Metro Council

When we elect members of our Metro Government we expect them to serve our interests to the best of their ability. If they don't, then we will elect people who will.

The Ohio River Bridges Project has changed dramatically since the Record of Decision was signed in 2003. Consider what's happened in seven years:

  • The cost has tripled from $1.4 Billion to $4.1 Billion.
  • Now we are being asked to pay for it with tolls.
  • The price of gas has doubled.
  • The economy is in a sustained recession.
  • Recent reports suggest traffic and congestion have declined.

All of this, and two local Councilmen have had this to say:

"This is not the time for further discussion on the project itself"
-Kevin Kramer

"The time for public discussion, as far as this issue, has passed"
-David Tandy

Not so fast! When these two should be asking tough questions, they instead want to rubber stamp a non-elected authority to impose what could be a $4.1 Billion tax on the citizens of our region. Shouldn't they be asking questions like:

What do the citizens of this region want?

Could we build the East End Bridge first without tolls?

Does the Environmental Impact Statement really say that the East End Bridge will provide more "cross-river mobility" at less than half the cost of the Downtown Bridge? [Hint: YES]

How much and on which bridges might they toll?


Do people support building a 23 lane Spaghetti Junction and widening I-64 over the Great Lawn?

Won't a bigger Spaghetti Junction simply push the bottlenecks to Hospital Curve and Cochran Tunnel?

Does River Fields plan to sue if/when the Record of Decision is opened to allow for tolling? (Hint: YES]

No one wants to see the East End Bridge move forward faster than we do, which is why now is a critical time for our elected leaders to answer some very important questions. If they don't, we should hold them accountable.

Yesterday's Courier-Journal headline painted a scary picture of Louisville's future traffic congestion. "Congestion rife on Louisville highways; Louisville among worst US cities its size with 38 hours lost yearly." Interesting timing considering that Metro Council will be asked to approve the creation of a tolling authority in the coming weeks.

But for readers who actually read the article, they found the headline to be misleading. For example, congestion has "stayed relatively constant from 1997 to 2007". This begs the question,

Why would we toll our bridges and triple the size of Spaghetti Junction when congestion hasn't increased over the past decade? 

The article also acknowledges that "the report's backers include road building and public transit interests." Road builders like to build roads. In fact, that's one of the ways they suggest we get out of this mess of congestion that hasn't increased in a decade, by building more roads. But we all know Barry Barker is correct when he says, "you can't build yourself out of congestion."

The other interesting fact about this hot-off-the-shelf 2009 report is that it didn't include any traffic data from 2008. As we've noted in other posts, Louisville's congestion is reported to have declined by 39% in 2008. This data is from INRIX, a privately held corporation founded by former Microsoft executives, not road building interests.

Did we mention that traffic on the Kennedy Bridge went down 15,000 cars/day last year? Look for a future post regarding the region's actual traffic counts.

Broken Sidewalk provides in-depth look at 8664

Brokensidewalk.com has compiled More evidence 8664 is a smart idea. Be sure to read it, but then pass it on to your Metro Council representative. They need to hear from you. 

If you care about the future growth and character of Louisville, then you should be an avid Brokensidewalk.com reader. The site covers the latest real-estate deal, the most up-to-date project announcements, and all the neighborhood news related to real estate development and living in our fine city. It's what you want and Louisville needs.

Top 5 Reasons we shouldn't toll our bridges

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  1. The EE Bridge provides more benefit at much less cost
    According to the Environmental Impact Statement, the East End Bridge will provide more cross-river mobility at a much lower cost. Inidana's Governor even said they would consider lending us the money to build the bridge. While the $2.6 Billion expansion of Spaghetti Junction will only create bigger bottlenecks at Hospital Curve and the Cochran Tunnel.  
  2. Tolls will open the Record of Decision ("ROD") for River Fields
    River Fields is the small organization that has pushed for the Downtown Bridge and has funded the opposition the the East End Bridge for decades. Their attorney Bob Griffith said, "We look forward to participating in the review that will be necessary to comply with environmental laws if tolls are chosen as part of this financial plan." 
  3. Louisville's Traffic congestion is declining
    According to INRIX National Traffic Scorecard, Louisville's congestion declined by 39% in 2008. This is consistent with the State's traffic numbers which indicate that the average vehicles per day on the Kennedy Bridge was down 15,000 in 2008. Look for an in-depth traffic analysis post within the next few days. 
  4. Tolls will restrict "cross-river mobility"
    The purpose of the Ohio River Bridges Project is to increase "cross-river mobility," but tolling our bridges will have the opposite effect. To strengthen our regional economy, we need to leverage all the people and resources in the region. 
  5. Frankfort should invest in Louisville
    Louisville generates the most tax reveneue for the state, but we receive a very small portion back in spending. Investing in Louisville's outdated infrastructure will provide the state with the highest possible ROI.

"Tearing Down Highways Relieves Traffic Jams"

The Infrastructurist takes a look at 4 Highway Removal case studies and concludes... 

"If a major road is making a city a less livable and vital place than it would otherwise be, in many cases everyone benefits when politicians have the vision and guts to tear it down."

The Urbanophile: The Case for 8664

Aaron Renn is an award-winning independent urban affairs thinker and strategist based in Chicago and Indianapolis. He writes a blog titled The Urbanophile which provides insightful commentary on Midwestern Cities. We invited Renn to Louisville to take a look around and give us his thoughts on our alternative to the Ohio River Bridges Project. Read Louisville: The Case for 8664.

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