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).
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.
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.)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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.)
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.
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.