Fighting to Take Back Louisville’s Waterfront

Today on the Streetsblog Network, we’re headed to Louisville, Kentucky, where Broken Sidewalk highlights grassroots efforts to prevent a massive expansion of the I-64 highway on the Ohio River waterfront.

A local advocacy group called (as in, "let’s 86 the 64") is opposing the Ohio River Bridges Project, which would cost $4.1 billion and result in an expanded interchange 23 lanes wide. The group, which was founded by two local businesspeople and claims 10,000 supporters, is promoting an alternative plan — one that would remove and relocate the highway, enhance Louisville’s waterfront by creating a pedestrian-friendly boulevard, and cost much less.

As Broken Sidewalk points out, highway removal is a national movement that is rapidly gaining wider mainstream acceptance — and despite the plans in place to make Louisville’s riverside road even bigger, it’s still not too late to change course:

ORBP_23_Lane_Spaghetti_Junction.jpgThe proposed "Spaghetti Junction," 23 lanes wide, that advocates in Louisville are trying to block. Illustration via

One of the great things about the 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. Those external benefits don’t fit easily onto a traffic modeling program and are often overlooked.

It’s often quipped in frustration that Louisville waits until something is done elsewhere before we can accept it here. If that’s indeed the case, highway removal should be fully legitimate. Plenty have already removed urban highways and plenty are seriously considering it. We could be in good company and we could also be in a
position of leadership in urban rejuvenation.…

It’s not too late to see the proposal come to fruition, and it’s not some out-of-touch, idealistic idea from a few dreamers. This is the course the country and the world are moving in to solve complicated transportation problems while simultaneously fixing cities.

The folks at and at Broken Sidewalk are bolstering their case with examples from around the country — check out the original post for plenty of relevant links. It’s a terrific example of how networking among sustainable transportation advocates in the United States can give local groups the tools they need to argue for better planning.

More from around the network: Copenhagenize notes the trend of "demotorization" in Japan — apparently, some young people there think it’s just not worth the trouble and expense of owning a car. Imagine that. Orlando Bike Commuter Blog suggests parking and riding a bike the last mile into downtown when doing business in that city. And City Parks Blog examines what makes a "great green place," using Dupont Circle in Washington, DC, as an example.

  • I had a recent post on this matter as well, including a large number of photos from the riverfront showing the damage done by I-64

  • There must have been a huge crude oil deposit discovery that the public is unaware of. Why else would there be more and more highways built instead of rapid transit. I guess all those economists who are predicting $200 a barrel for crude oil and $20 a gallon for gasoline are just wrong.

  • Aaron’s photos are a great representation of how the highway has destroyed much of the city along the riverfront. It’s amazing the campaign has been around for around 4 years and has been overlooked by the Louisville government even while there’s no way to fund the massive ORBP plan.

  • CaptainVideo

    “Imagine that. Orlando Bike Commuter Blog suggests parking and riding a bike the last mile into downtown when doing business in that city.”

    Orlando does not have long, cold winters with ice and snow on the road. But even there, imagine a business person in suit and tie riding a bicycle downtown when it is raining.

  • Sarah Goodyear

    Aaron, thanks. That’s a terrific post and the photos say it all.

  • Kelly

    Aside from the powers that be, the bridges project doesn’t seem to be very popular, at least among my cirlce of friends and coworkers. I’m hopeful that becausing of the ever rising cost of the project and the continued budget woes of both kentucky and Indiana, the damn thing will never be built, but the “leaders” of the city somehow seem to keep dumping crap that most of us don’t want.

  • Kelly, I have spoken with many, many people who once thought the massive Ohio River Bridges Project was a good idea. It’s easy to believe in the project because it represents a mentality we’ve been living with for a long, long time. A lot of people only understand the basics of the very complicated project, though. The mainstream news has not covered the real impacts of the project or how it will really change the city. Once someone really understands all the impacts and understands how the plan solves all of them for much cheaper, they tend to open their minds quite a bit.

  • Raoul

    Duluth, MN went through this many years ago – the plan was to extend I-35 all along the Lake Superior waterfront and remove the heart of downtown. The usual hippy suspects were able to prevail and now the city has a revitalized waterfront and linear parks. It’s a tourist destination. I-35 still ends there, but the final couple of miles are inland a little and were put in tunnels – win/win, unless you consider that cars are the be-all and end-all of urban planning.

  •  I live in Louisville and worked for the Kentucky Department of Transportation for 27 years as a project manager. They broke ground this morning on the project. The second bridge, about 7 miles upstream is nearing its start date as litigation by River Fields is coming to an end. This bridge may entail a tunnel. I have a friend that was PM on the tunnel portion a few years ago and last I heard there was still debate on that option or taking a old farm off of the historic register since it was questionable whether it was eligible in the first place or something to that effect.

    To give you an idea of this nightmare process we have been going through I worked on a scoping study in the late 80’s for this project. Lawsuits where filed almost to the day the study was published and we have been in court with River Fields every since. This group has cost the Taxpayers 10’s of millions of dollars defending this project. Every last case was either thrown out or we won. River Fields would file something else and stop the project. Two things have happened. First the State has won the right to proceed and secondly River Fields have so hurt themselves in the communities eyes they are pretty much laughed at now by the community.

    A couple of years ago an expansion of a park on the other side of town caught River Fields attention and they started getting involved. The entire ntire community near the park told River Fields they where not welcome here and they would take legal action if necessary. 



Will Seattle Blow Its Chance to Reclaim Its Waterfront?

It’s bad enough that Washington DOT is building a huge underground highway by the Seattle waterfront at enormous expense and financial risk. Now the city is poised to ruin the one benefit of the highway tunnel — better pedestrian connections to the waterfront. Advocates have been warning against replacing the current elevated highway with a highway-like surface street. But […]