A portion of Eastern Parkway between Third Street and Interstate 65 is going on a “road diet.” The historic Frederick Law Olmsted parkway will undergo a major renovation intended to increase the road’s functionality while adding bike lanes, expanded sidewalks, and landscaping. When complete, the new stretch of Eastern Parkway at the University of Louisville will be one of the city’s most progressive roadways.
Beginning in mid- to late-August, crews will transform the four lane expanse into a two lane road with medians and periodic turning lanes. A bike lane will be striped in each direction and sidewalks will be widened across the Eastern Parkway viaduct. New planting beds will be created on each side of the parkway and a decorative retaining wall installed near Third Street.
The bridge itself has been in need of repair for some time as weather has caused the concrete to spall and deterioration to the structure. Concrete piers will be repaired and the top layer of the deck will be replaced. The concrete guard rails will also be removed and the entire bridge widened three feet on each side for expanded sidewalks. The median on the viaduct will receive a similar treatment as the Central Avenue bridge with stamped concrete. Once the roadway returns to the ground, medians will be landscaped.
The streetscape is also set for several improvements including new street lighting, bus shelters, and a reconfigured sidewalk at the Speed School. New decorative walls will be constructed between the street and sidewalk with a design meant to evoke the historic nature of the area including the influence of the Olmsted parkway. The barriers are also meant to discourage jaywalking. The viaduct guard rails will feature a similar Olmsted-inspired design.
One of the most needed improvement occurs at Hans Street which connects Eastern Parkway with Floyd Street. The turning radius at this location shrinks slightly to allow for better pedestrian connectivity. East of the intersection, the roadway returns to its familiar layout.
To achieve an effective “road diet,” several curb cuts leading to parking lots will be eliminated, reducing the number of turning actions for cars. Instead, parking lot access will be handled via the controlled intersection at the Speed School with a turning lane. A circular driveway at the school will also be transformed into a pedestrian zone and a landscaped median installed in the center of Eastern Parkway.
A “road diet” is a relatively new technique that enhances the overall functionality of a road. Transportation officials admit is seems a little counter-intuitive to make a better road by removing lanes, but that the idea generates support over time. Officials point out that without a turning lane, traffic is hindered at turning movements and intersections, effectively transforming a four lane road into a two lane road as one lane is blocked.
In determining if a particular street is a candidate for a road diet, a traffic study is completed to understand current conditions. Results are used to project 20 to 30 years into the future to estimate how conditions could evolve over time. If everything works out, a street could receive the treatment.
One of the first road diets implemented in the area is on U.S. 60 in Shelbyville where a four lane road was reduced to two through lanes and a turning lane. Other roads in Louisville could undergo a road diet in the future, but no plans have been announced to date.
Friday was the bid opening for the project and transportation officials hope to award a contract in a couple weeks. New signage will also be installed to reroute U.S. 60A from Third Street to Central Avenue to Crittenden Drive back to Eastern Parkway to formalize a route already in place by most drivers and truckers. The project is scheduled for completion on December 31st, 2009.