I-64 is closed for the next month. If you believed all of the hype, you would think that the world would end because of this event. In reality, it was much of a non-event. Traffic was a little worse. Travel to/from Indiana to Louisville takes longer. It’s not pleasant, but nothing earth-shattering. Even with the closure, the traffic is nothing compared to larger cities, such as Chicago.
If you live close to downtown, the I-64 closure isn’t any trouble at all.
This brings me to two points I want to make:
First, there has been a movement for some time to reevaluate the plans for two new bridges in the Louisville, KY area (one bridge downtown and one bridge on the east end). This movement, 8664, persuasively argues that I-64 through the heart of Louisville–cleaving the downtown from its historic, riverfront roots–was a mistake in judgment when the interstate system was first conceived for the Louisville area. I-64’s closure between 22nd Street and Third Street is more or less the section of I-64 that 8664 proposes be removed and turned into a boulevard along the river. The current situation is not really a fair comparison to the 8664 proposal for two reasons: (1) The East End Bridge doesn’t exist and (2) 8664 proposes a boulevard where I-64 currently travels, enabling easy access to downtown from the West End and Indiana. However, I do think that the current closure shows that traffic can still move–even with major construction underway.
Second, the disruption caused by the closure of I-64 is magnified because of Louisville’s lack of a true mass transit alternative to commuting by car. At more workplace, however, there has been positive interest shown in at least considering the bus for commuting. But, let’s face it. There are only a handful of routes from Indiana to Louisville. Moreover, the buses also must deal with the same closure of I-64 as all other vehicles. That’s not very conducive to gaining ridership.
What does this have to do with Louisville Living?
For Louisville, KY (and the surrounding region) to continue its development, it needs to improve the quality of life–especially in the urban/town centers. A vibrant center energizes the entire region.
For downtown, I-64 is an ugly blight. It’s removal would greatly improve the quality of the downtown area, creating new open space and connecting the city center to its river heritage. It would open the riverfront area for development and revitalization (especially the Riverport area just west of 9th Street) and lead to a renaissance along the river. Moreover, it would likely prove to be a financial boon–potentially saving taxpayers more than a billion dollars by making the constuction of a second downtown bridge for I-65 unnecessary.
The money saved could then be funnelled into another project to improve the quality of life for the entire region: a real transportation plan. Today’s plan isn’t much of a plan: build more roads (even though current roads can barely be maintained). A true transportation plan would encourage more travel choices (more choice=more satisfaction) to the entire Louisville community.
For example, Vancouver, Canada has an innovative transportation plan that explicity states “there should be no increase in road capacity, with the intention that other modes are preferred in the following order:
- Goods Movement (trucks)
- Single Occupant Vehicles
Louisville should likewise develop a comprehensive transportation plan, focused on quality of life and true transit choice.