Current conditions at Brownsboro Road (Broken Sidewalk)
Current conditions at Brownsboro Road (Broken Sidewalk)
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[ Editor’s note: Neighborhood leaders familiar with the road diet project have informed me that the C-J and the District 9 blog have incorrectly stated the boundaries of the road diet project. The correct boundaries should be noted as Ewing Avenue to the east and Drescher Bridge Road to the west. Please acknowledge this change when viewing maps after the jump. ]

After years of waiting, Brownsboro Road through Clifton Heights may finally be slimming down to provide room for all modes of transportation, not just automobiles. Called a “road diet,” the plan is to reduce the current 4-lane layout to three lanes, providing sidewalks along the busy commercial corridor. Now, two lanes travel in each direction, but in a few months, Brownsboro Road could be carrying one lane in each direction with a turning lane in the middle – and, of course, sidewalks. There’s a meeting this Tuesday, April 12 at 6:00 pm where you can show your support for this vital transportation improvement (more info on this facebook page).

Brownsboro Road Diet in yellow (Map via Lojic)
Brownsboro Road Diet in yellow. (via Lojic)

The target area for the Brownsboro Road Diet is the stretch of road between Drescher Bridge Road and Ewing Avenue (seen above in yellow). This stretch effectively forms Clifton Heights’ “main street,” yet it is woefully difficult to maneuver as a pedestrian. (And given the proximity of the Kentucky School for the Blind, it’s imperative we get this one right.) I spent some time studying this corridor over previous years, walking the neighborhood on foot, spending time in the beautiful Olmsted park at Coral Avenue and Brownsboro Road, and attempting to cross the street as motorists speed down the wide raceway well over the speed limit. Take a look at the gallery below to get a sense of the current conditions along Brownsboro Road (or better yet, take a walk there yourself).

There are many major obstacles to walkability  present along Brownsboro Road and in Clifton Heights. Despite its central location in a historic neighborhood, the road is effectively set up to handle auto traffic almost exclusively at the expense of all other modes of transportation. Where sidewalks exist, they are narrow, interrupted by utility poles and other urban detritus, or overgrown. Many blocks are missing sidewalks entirely — sometimes due to a large cliff that gives the neighborhood its name or other times due to massive curb cuts that turn what should be sidewalk space into a parking lot — space again dedicated to cars. Crosswalks and signalized intersections are few and far between. Beyond that, many neighborhood streets surrounding Brownsboro Road also lack appropriate pedestrian amenities.

Current conditions at Brownsboro Road Diet site (Broken Sidewalk)
Current conditions at Brownsboro Road. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)
Current conditions at Brownsboro Road Diet site (Broken Sidewalk)
Current conditions at Brownsboro Road. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

According to the Courier-Journal, the project is expected to cost $400,000 and should take three months to finish once it starts construction this summer. Although funds have been authorized for the project, a 90-day review still must be undertaken by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC). (Another C-J article from March 22 draws attention to a separate $200,000 sidewalk project at Drescher Bridge and Brownsboro roads in Clifton Heights. Planned improvements include resurfacing and adding sidewalks and lighting which could begin this spring.)

Current conditions at Brownsboro Road Diet site (Broken Sidewalk)
Current conditions at Brownsboro Road. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

David Morse at CART (Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation) will be at Tuesday’s meeting and hopes you can show your support with a sticker or sign. From the CART Blog:

You can not imagine the fear of crossing this road, until you’ve tried to do it at night with a tired 5-year old child and the only crosswalk a 15 minute walk away. Residents face this dilemma every day, folks.

If you care at all about balanced transportation, or neighborhoods being designed as anything more than superhighways, then come to this meeting and voice your support. Public support for this project will determine how enthusiastic government will be to do needed road diets throughout Louisville. A strong show of support is essential for Louisville to become a walkable and bikeable city.

Here’s an update from Metro Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh’s blog from February:

Since Brownsboro is a state road KYTC must review all plans before we may move forward.  On January 25th, SLO funds were appropriated for this project by the state.  The plan review is still needed by KYTC which could take up to 90 days to complete.  The next steps after the KYTC plan review: a resolution will be introduced to the Metro Council; once approved Resolution will be forwarded to the Mayor’s office for signature; then to Frankfort.  MPW hopes the project will begin in mid June 2011, and end after approximately 3 months of construction with the goal of  completing the project before school starts back in August.

(If you’re able to make it to the meeting Tuesday, please report back to us about what you saw and heard in the comments or to tips@brokensidewalk.com.)

It’s especially important to address this problem as soon as possible as infrastructure changes can help steer future development in the right direction. As you can see on the map and photos, there’s some existing urban stock in the area, but more often, suburban style development has and continues to encroach on the corridor. It’s easy to spot several massive parking lots, fast food drive-thrus, and a massive mini-storage complex.

Just last week, the Metro Landmark Commission’s architectural review committee approved demolition of three urban-minded buildings for a new gas station at 2318 Brownsboro Road. (There are currently two gas stations on Brownsboro between Mellwood and Hillcrest avenues.)

Site to be demolished for a gas station (Courtesy Google)
Site to be demolished for a gas station. (Courtesy Google)
Site to be demolished for a gas station (Courtesy Google)
Site to be demolished for a gas station (Courtesy Google)
Site to be demolished for a gas station (Courtesy Google)
Site to be demolished for a gas station (Courtesy Google)

This is the site slated for a gas station, where Fashion Cleaners and Jones Bargain Center once were. According to the C-J, the proposal will next be presented to the Metro Planning Commission’s Development Review Committee on Wednesday, April 13 at 1:00 pm at 514 West Liberty Street downtown. Landmarks has requested the developer consider landscaping the gas station which will appropriately sit between a typical suburban McDonald’s and a convenience store behind a parking lot.

Brownsboro Road Diet in yellow (Map via Lojic)
Brownsboro Road Diet in yellow (Map via Lojic)

While I haven’t seen any plans for the Brownsboro Road Diet, I believe it’s important to consider the larger picture beyond just the boundaries set for this project. Considering the segments to the east and west of the target area (marked in red above) is also important. To the east, many large multi-family residential buildings (including the recently built Cliff View Terrace) also lack sidewalks and connectivity to the commercial corridor. To the west across Mellwood in Butchertown, Brownsboro and Story Avenue could be reworked to avoid the speedway condition that currently exists on a small residential street.

With the neighborhood’s signature hills and cliffs, the potential for a network of green space connecting the Olmsted park with the surrounding neighborhood, Beargrass Creek, and the waterfront beyond could help transform Clifton Heights into a uniquely livable community. Consideration of bike and transit facilities should also be considered in the overall plan.

There’s still a long fight ahead to achieve overall modal parity in our transportation systems. For example, this major improvement is receiving $400,000 in funding. On the other side of the county at Shelbyville Road and the Gene Snyder (an even less walkable area), what’s being described as an “interim fix“—essentially adding lanes until an interchange can be rebuilt—will cost $7.34 million. That’s a multi-million dollar fix for cars only.

Current conditions at Brownsboro Road Diet site (Broken Sidewalk)
Current conditions at Brownsboro Road. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)
Current conditions at Brownsboro Road Diet site (Broken Sidewalk)
Current conditions at Brownsboro Road. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)
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Branden Klayko

Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden founded Broken Sidewalk in 2008 while practicing architecture in Louisville. He continued the site for seven years while living in New York City, returning to Louisville in 2016. Branden is a graduate of the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, and has covered architecture, design, and urbanism for The Architect's Newspaper, Designers & Books, Inhabitat, and the American Institute of Architects.
Branden Klayko

22 COMMENTS

  1. I plan to be at the presentation Tuesday evening.

    Looking at the articles in the CeeJ, I was surprised at the absence of vitriolic comments against the road diet. This is a good sign.

    I’m sure there will be a significant number of detractors making comments at some point, but it really needs to be done.

    While we are at it, what about a road diet for the Clark Bridge?

  2. While they are at it, hopefully they can do something about Jane St intersection by the Krogers. People jaywalk across this street all the time and it’s quite dangerous. I’m shocked more people don’t get hit by a car at that spot.

  3. Thanks for this article. I’m planning to be there tomorrow. 4/12 is the 50th anniversary of people flying in space and we have to go to a meeting in order to be able to safely walk down the street.

  4. Thank you for great article! I have lived in Clifton Heights for over 15 years and have, on several occasions, crossed Brownsboro illegally to avoid walking 2 blocks AWAY from my destination to cross at a stop-light. This improvement won’t completely stop the J-walking at Jane St., but it will provide a better and safer crossing for those who do play by the rules. As it is now, residents coming from the North side of Brownsboro between Mt. Holly (across from Jane St. and Kroger) and Lindsay (next to Thornton’s) must walk at least one or two blocks out of the way to access a signaled crossing.
    I cannot be at the meeting, but I strongly encourage those who can to attend. Don’t let this issue be decided by “fly-by commuters” who spend all of thirty seconds a day in our neighborhood!

  5. I’m all for adding sidewalks where there are none, on this and on many other deserving roads in the area.

    That said, I’m not sure I’m for this “diet”. I’m not sure I’m against it either. I’m truly open-minded.

    I would like to know if it’s possible to maintain the width of the road and shift it over where needed to create a sidewalk on the side that doesn’t have one.

    I don’t “worship the car”, but I do think we shouldn’t go into denial that this stretch may well be needed to remain this wide to handle the current traffic loads.

    As I said, I’m open-minded, and if anyone has clear arguments as to why the diet is the only or best solution, I would be happy to take them into account.

    Note: Anti-car positions, while I fully understand and appreciate where they come from, won’t be too convincing to me.

  6. My discussions with various people on this issue range from elated (business owner in the neighborhood), to satisfied (local resident), to mouth-foaming (suburbanite who uses Brownsboro Road to get to and from work downtown). I wonder how this will affect the amount of “curb cuts” along the street, since so many businesses have parking directly off Brownsboro. And I know we don’t have the money for it, but wouldn’t it be great if they could use this opportunity to bury the lines, as well.

  7. It is not just a matter of controlling the speeding, although that is a serious issue along the entire Brownsboro corridor from I-264 to Mellwood. The illegal crossing stems from the fact that there is not a pedestrian cross-walk, signalled or otherwise between Haldeman Ave. and Clifton Ave.

  8. Seemed like everyone (45-60 people) in attendance supported the Brownsboro Rd. Diet. One of the more interesting issues that came up was whether cars would be forced to move at the speed of TARC buses travelling on the road as there would no longer be a lane to move around them. That should significantly slow traffic (and I imagine really irritate some drivers)as the left turn lane is not supposed to be used for anything but turns. Councilmember Pugh seemed to suggest the project would break ground this summer while the gentleman (I don’t have the agenda in front of me) from, Metro Works or something, offered a more sober assessment saying the project was at least 6 months from beginning. As he was a bureaucrat directly linked to the project I think he probably has the more accurate information. TARC also spoke and mentioned placing improved bus shelters along the area in question.

    Also of note were the folks from the Parks Dept who showed the audience a rendition of the new/improved Breslin Park. I’m unable to find anything online about the new plans but I recall it having a spray park, playground equipment, bike racks and a nice trail that will apparently lead folks to a bike loop or something. No new half pipe, in case anyone was wondering.

  9. I wonder though that there may well be a number of opponents to this change. Much of the drivers who drive from that segment don’t live around that segment, and so they may have felt too intimidated to show up and oppose it. This probably deserves a wider public hearing not held in the neighborhood.

    I’m not trying to be a stinker, but I don’t think it’s fair for this decision about a major thoroughfare to be left up to those who just live around that segment, and activists (I don’t mean this word in a negative way) who want traffic calming and better sidewalks everywhere.

    If this were a side street, there would be no issue as far as I’m concerned. But it’s not a side street.

  10. Steve, before you dig in, I understand that you were too intimidated to come and listen to the FACTS presented at the meeting, or any of the ten thousand other public meetings on this. Would you like to listen to my tape of it? Contact me offline and I’ll send it to you. The FACTS are there is not enough traffic on that road to merit 4 lanes. 3 lanes is fine for 14,000 ADT. Two blocks further inward, the road operates as 3 lanes or even 2 lanes most of the day.

    So please, please, stop firing from the hip and do your homework, before attacking the process that you so far have made no effort to engage in. I’ve heard more kvetching about this project from YOU than any other person in Louisville. Sheesh!

  11. That’s the beginning of the kind of information I was seeking. I would remind you David that disgust/anger does not an argument make. Certainly there were not “ten thousand” meetings. I look forward to a presentation of the facts to the whole community, not just to me, especially as I am a busy guy and don’t have time to go cross-town (by car) and make all these meetings I get invites to (which are very appreciated). Please post these facts in a publicly accessible spot, such as on the web. As I said, I’m open-minded, and I’m sure many others are as well.

    Further, I’m not one of the people who drive through that corridor. I mention potential feelings of intimidation of those who do.

    Last, I’m concerned that the public is only getting one side of the viewpoints on this. I see myself as a community discussion equalizer of sorts, and I want to make sure that everyone can be a part of this decision along this major thoroughfare.

  12. Sorry, Steve, for my last reply. It was too harsh.

    I think meetings in the neighborhood are where its at.

    People who are concerned about adding 1 more lane change to the 20 they do in a given day need to the people they’re screwing in the eye. People are having to walk miles to go thousands of feet as the crow flies. A lot of these people are blind. Its a ridiculous division of inconvenience, and the road diet does a good job of righting this imbalance.

  13. I understand the fervor of your position, and personally, I largely agree with this proposal (I want enhanced pedestrian access everywhere too). It doesn’t even affect me directly, so I can’t really oppose it from my perspective.

    The main tripping point for me really is that I think there will be a number of people who weren’t a part of this process who are or may be in disagreement with the constricting from a auto traffic management POV, and they may perceive this matter as having been decided by people living near that segment, and not including them. I just think it would be advantageous to make facts easily available that convince these people that their travel to their jobs (for example) will not be slowed in any significant way.

    I understand the seriousness of this proposal. I just want to make sure it doesn’t sew any unnecessary discontent.

  14. If they are driving through the neighborhood enough for it to matter to them, then they can obviously drive TO the neighborhood to attend a public meeting.
    I don’t have the quota to post the audio to the world. Do you want it or not?

  15. I imagine most unhappy drivers that are only passing through this area during a commute are coming from further out Brownsboro Rd/HWY 42. It seems like if the changes really present a hassle it would be just as easy for them to use I-71. Pedestrians, not automobiles, ought to be the priority in neighborhood settings. Additionally, there really do need to be more legal and safe areas to cross Brownsboro, which this plan addresses.

    It seems like folks in the Highlands successfully snuffed out the idea of adding a Kroger fuel station in their area, is there not a movement to do this on Brownsboro? As the article notes, there are already two gas stations serving this stretch of road.

  16. As a four-year resident of first Clifton and now Clifton Heights, I’d like to voice my support for this project. It might hamper the zip-route to Downtown a little bit, but at least I won’t have to worry as much about hitting a pedestrian, a near-constant risk as it stands today.

    Now, the gas station? That’s another matter entirely. There is absolutely no way we need another gas station on Brownsboro Road. As the article notes, there are two within a block and a half of one another! It’s ridiculous! If they really want to spur growth in that sector, the administration or Council member Pugh need to step in, put the kibosh on this bone-headed move and recruit a developer or entrepreneur to rehab those neat spaces as either retail or office space – and not another fast food or check-cashing joint, please.

  17. One clarifidation is needed to the above article – specifically this section: {On the other side of the county at Shelbyville Road and the Gene Snyder (an even less walkable area), what’s being described as an “interim fix” — essentially adding lanes until an interchange can be rebuilt — will cost $7.34 million. That’s a multi-million dollar fix for cars only.}
    While it is an interim fix on a failing intersection, it does include funds to create a multi-use section of the “Middletown-Eastwood Trail (aka the MET), which is a part of the 100 mile Louisville Loop.

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