Steve Wiser, a local architect, historian, and occasional contributor to Broken Sidewalk, has been tweaking his proposal for a solution to the Ohio River Bridges Project that involves local access bridges as opposed to Interstate highway bridges (that we first published last April). He will be presenting his ideas tomorrow (Saturday, March 6) at Destinations Booksellers – Dueling Grounds Cafe at 604 East Spring Street in New Albany.
Here’s some information about the event:
As the prospect of tolls on the Kentucky-Indiana Ohio River Bridges edges closer, one local design professional is proposing a more rational and less costly solution to the cross-river commute.
Architect Steve Wiser says new local access bridges at several points along the river in Clark, Floyd, and Jefferson counties would eliminate congestion and perhaps forestall the dislocations and expense of what’s being called the Ohio River Bridges Project. With a bi-state authority just beginning its deliberations, Wiser says now is the time to explore the alternatives.
A cursory examination of readily available data shows that Indiana residents would be paying a disproportionate share of tolls or user fees. More Hoosiers work in Kentucky than Kentuckians who work in Indiana.
The toll-free local access plan is roughly outlines in the diagram above and begins with the construction of the East End Bridge as planned. Instead of the extremely expensive Downtown portion of the bridges project (including the $2 Billion junction overhaul), Wiser proposes two local access bridges—one from Jefferson to Floyd County, Indiana and one to Clark County. A busway would tie everything together.
Here’s Steve Wiser’s synopsis of the plan titled “Boiling a Frog: Time to ‘Jump’ to a Toll-Free Better Bridge Solution:”
Have we lost all perspective on how this will negatively harm our community’s growth? This drastic situation did not occur overnight. It’s been a slow, steady 50 year process that has resulted in this worst case scenario.
Costs have skyrocketed almost 2,000 percent since the initial projection of $200 million was made for the east end bridge in 1990. The tunnel alone has soared 300 percent in just the last three years.
If today, without all this past history, a task force recommended a $4.1 billion dollar, two bridge, massive overhaul of spaghetti junction, toll-funded proposal, both governors would respond: “are you NUTS!?! You want to divide our two states with tolls? Go back and find a more realistic solution.”
So, its surprising no one in a leadership position says, “whoa, let’s take a step back. Is this really the best way to create cross-river connections?”
No one wants any more delays or increased costs. In fact, folks want the bridges built faster, at a lower cost, with no tolls. The reason given for this lock-step approach to this bewildering scheme is that it’s the only solution both states can agree on. And, the Record of Decision (ROD) by the federal highway department can’t be revised.
Well, a simple Google search reveals that changes happen on RODs all the time, so that doesn’t seem to be a major roadblock. Certainly the costs and schedule for this project have constantly spiraled upward without any leader complaining that these ballooning excesses are harmful to the project’s implementation.
As to the only bi-state solution, well, Kentucky and Indiana work together routinely, without such drama, tolls, or complicated process, to build bridges across the Ohio River such as the recent Owensboro Natcher Bridge, and the upcoming Madison, Indiana Bridge.
So, in taking a cue from Gov. Daniels charge to the bridge authority to consider every option and approach this task in a business-like manner, and not government-like, I submit my proposal:
- Build the east end bridge without the tunnel
- Instead of the tunnel, relocate the Drumanard mansion, recreating the landscape, as the Olmsted Interpretative Center
- Build two new local-access bridges adjacent to the Clark and K & I bridges
- Build new access connector for I-71 and I-64 for the east downtown-med center-arena-waterfront districts
- Build an elevated busway along the waterfront connecting these two new local-access bridges
My guestimate for this proposal would cost $1.4 billion, saving $2.7 billion (based on ORBP figures). It would spur economic development in west Louisville, east downtown, and southern Indiana.
This is doable within a 5 year timeframe, and without tolls. It also lessens the environmental footprint, and thus avoids an ROD complication.
To continue on the current path will put at a great disadvantage our logistics-based economy and overall quality of life.
Most are familiar with the tale of how to boil a frog: slowly turn up the heat so the frog does not jump out. Hopefully, there is still time to alter this growth threatening, extreme makeover and jump out to a more reasonable, beneficial bridge solution which makes our metro community a much better place in which to live.
Check out Steve’s entire proposal at his web site Wiser Designs.