Bridge Building And A Quicker, Cheaper Alternative

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Harrods Creek Bridge
Harrods Creek Bridge. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

No, we’re not talking about 8664.org … yet. First up is the crumbling Harrods Creek Bridge on River Road that closed recently. Yesterday, the mayor’s office revived plans to widen the bridge to two lanes despite a lawsuit from River Fields. We’re not here to argue for expanding the one-lane bridge or rehabbing the dilapidated guard rails, but instead to point out an interesting quote from River Fields attorney Don Cox on the issue:

We’re not trying to stop the project, we’re trying to get them to agree to build a quicker, cheaper alternative that will maintain the character of the area, and that is a one-lane bridge.

Doesn’t that sound familiar? Sounds like… wait for it… 8664. We’re all for the quicker, cheaper alternative to that massive Ohio River Bridges Project that River Fields has also been fighting. And the grotesque tangle of highways downtown certainly don’t fit the character of a vibrant urban area. The 8664.org blog pointed out again today that the Bridges Project really has little to do with bridges at all:

Half the cost of the Bridges Project ($2 Billion) has nothing to do with a bridge. The proposed 23 lane wide Spaghetti Junction will make downtown a construction hell for 20 years. And you get to pay for it. $4, $5 or maybe even a $6 toll every time you want to cross the river. This project was supposed to improve ‘cross-river mobility.’

We like a line (and, frankly, that’s about it) from a recent C-J editorial about the pending Obama stimulus plan: “But we urge the incoming Obama administration to look beyond the immediate goal of “shovel-ready.” We urge it to aim for that—and also items that are ‘future-worthy.'” They were, of course, advocating the slow death of Louisville through an expanded Spaghetti Junction, but we feel “future-worthy” is a valid issue to raise. Is the Bridges Project future-worthy? We obviously don’t feel it is.

As many local business and civic leaders (even one who wanted to be Secretary of Transportation) try to hush any discussion of the future of transportation in our city because we’re “so close” to getting something maybe someday built. The C-J editorial board in one hand urges stimulus like that of the 1930s that will “transform” and “reshape our future,” but in the other urges the community to support an antiquated technology that will shackle Louisville solely to the transportation patterns of the last century.

Last point comes from a new study reported in the Boston Globe about what makes a city economically healthy and prosperous (hint: it’s not more highways). The study from economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia notes that “consumption amenities” like parks or riverfronts help metropolitan areas attract educated workers and create livable communities:

Urban growth and prosperity have less to do with transportation links and industrial infrastructure than the patterns that govern behavior at a social mixer: Beautiful and charming cities draw a crowd, while the featureless and unattractive wilt like wallflowers.

The study promoted “fun” over “joyless nitty-gritty” and suggests improving the qualities of unique urban life instead of paving over them will benefit cities far into the future. So maybe if critics of 8664.org like River Fields or the Courier-Journal would take their own advice and look at cheaper, quicker alternatives and consider future-worthy projects, Louisville could ride out the economic turmoil and emerge stronger and more livable in the end.

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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

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