Saturday, June 23, 2007

127 -- a highway number in Kentucky. Speaking of highways . . . . .

127 is a US highway route which ranges north to south through our Commonwealth, entering in Covington, multiplexed, or co-signed with US 42. It follows south, eventually departing US 42 about five miles east of Warsaw in Gallatin County, in an inward (eastward) bend of the Ohio opposite Switzerland County, Indiana, where some of my ancient Hockensmith relatives made their homes in the late 1800s, and more than a few have an eternal resting place there as well.

From that point, US 127 runs generally due south, through Owenton to the city of Frankfort, where it once went through town along Holmes Street, Ann Street, the Capital Avenue bridge, 2nd Street, and then up Louisville Hill to the west co-signed with US 60 (and US 460 at the time), but now somewhat by-passes around the western edge of the city through the older settlement of Leestown along Wilkinson Boulevard (which was not named for any recent governor), then across the new bridges and up the western side of Buttimer's Hill, where it rejoined it former course. From there the road follows to Lawrenceburg and Harrodsburg, then further to Danville, Liberty, and Jamestown. It swings out to the west to go around Lake Cumberland, and finally back southeastward to Albany, then six more miles in the Commonwealth before crossing the over Cedar Knob to the stateline into Tennessee at the tiny village of Static, Kentucky. Curiously, there is a five point intersection right there at the state line.

But, I didn't set out to write about US 127. This is entry #127 and I got a little carried away. I did set out to write about highways, specifically the plans in downtown Louisville to widen and expand I-64, I-65, I-71, and the accompanying plan to erect a new northbound-only bridge parallel to I-65 into downtown Jeffersonville, Indiana. I am opposed to this idea. I support the alternative plan presented by the 8664 proponents. We've visted this subject before and I am going to again today. If you aren't interested in a reprise, you are free to browse other more interesting pages of the web at this point.

As some of you know, I am a member and officer of the Metro Democratic Club in Louisville. We’ve talked about next month’s meeting possibly being a discussion of the 8664 proposal which finds some favor in the community, but not amongst the local powers-that-be. As most folks know by now, the 8664 proposal, in brief, emphasizes a parkway through downtown and a re-routing of Louisville’s through traffic around the metro area and into Indiana upon an as yet unbuilt East End bridge, the one former Congresswoman Anne Northup would have us believe she built during her ten years in the Congress.

The proposal has supporters and opponents for a variety of reasons. I am a supporter, and I know there are others which do not share my enthusiasm and support. My support stems mostly from two perspectives: history and safety. From a point of view taking history into account, not doing an 8664 type project then requires building a downtown bridge, something I strongly oppose. As a candidate for the Metro Council in 2002, I spoke of my opposition to a downtown bridge, and my support of two bridges, one in the northeast, the other in the southwest, when I was interviewed by the Courier.

Notwithstanding I-64, I-71, River Road, and 3rd Street, the widening of I-65 alone to connect to a new northbound-only bridge will devastate not only downtown Louisville but also downtown Jeffersonville on the other side of the river. Back on our side, sooner or later we all know there will be a catastrophic accident in Hospital Curve, one which require the evacuation of those occupying the hundreds of hospital rooms nearby. Many years ago the life of Oscar Hornung was taken in the curve when logs from a tractor-trailer became loosened and rolled off the truck and onto the vehicle Oscar was driving. Louisville was fortunate only one life was lost in that incidence. Widening the approaches to the new bridge will no doubt lead to more and more traffic, and we all know, despite all the warnings to slow down (to 50 MPH according to posted signs), very few people do slow down and a wider approach will invite even higher speeds. One day’s accident won’t be logs off a truck, but deadly chemicals from some carrier. We had such a scare yesterday when a train derailed out in Jeffersontown prompting an evacuation. Evacuation of the hospitals will be difficult at best and widening the highway will only invite problems, not help them. And what of the new Waterfront developments, both private and public, on both sides of the river? All this investment to have it overshadowed and overrun by an expanded raised roadway. Even the Louisville Skatepark, a favorite haunt of my oldest nephew and his friends and which the City has never bothered to finish, will fall under the shadow of one of the proposed new ramps.

By the same argument, widening I-65 and building a new bridge, and the 23 connecting lanes that go with it, will eventually lead in the not very distant future, to plans to widen I-64 through Cherokee and Seneca Parks, the probable removal of the Cochran Tunnels, as well as widening along I-71 through the Mellwood Avenue valley. When do we say “no more?” Or do we ever? Are we resigned to a continuous process of the rebuilding and widening of highways, ad infinitum?

I think and hope not. This summer is serving as a test run, one which both sides are closely watching. For the last few weekends, and throughout the month of July, excepting the 4th, I-64 is to be closed in downtown Louisville for much needed repairs. This is the first overhauling of this stretch since its construction in the 1960s. The Courier-Journal has already used to opportunity of the weekends closures to tell of the hardships created and those which are sure to follow, simply from these temporary closures. The implication from the paper is clear - it will be much worse if the supporters of 8664 have their way and the Riverside Expressway is torn down and lowered to a through street along the river at grade level. Oh the horrors we will experience!

Don’t believe it because it is merely conjecture; a campaign borrowed from the Bush White House, which emphasizes fear of the unknown, a xenophobic attitude for reasons unknown. The biggest point they never bother to point out that this current adventure does not include is a new East End Bridge carrying through traffic around the city. They do not bother to point out that the 8664 plan calls for a new through street, a grade level riverside drive, one which utilizes existing street patterns. The picture painted by the Courier-Journal, as well as the administration, is one of fear.

Again, don’t buy into it. Learn the facts first. If then you aren’t convinced, fine. This community deserves a larger and better discussion of this issue than the C-J and others are willing to give. Think about this - if there had been a larger and better discussion in the early 1960s about using the riverfront for a park instead of a raised river-blocking highway, would we be having this discussion today?

2 comments:

Ray said...

Jeff, the Metro Dem Club, at their July 11th meeting, will meet at the Amphitheater at Waterfront Park to discuss the "8664" issue.
Watch http://www.metrodem.com/ for more information.
It is also their annual picnic. The meat will be provided, please bring a dish or desert.

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Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Single, male, bald, overweight, early 50s, seeking . . . Oh wait, that's goes on the other website. How about this - never married, liberal Democrat, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.