Bridges Authority Unlikely To Curb Opposition

by Gabe Bullard on December 8, 2009

The bi-state authority appointed to oversee the long-debated Ohio River Bridges Project is set to begin meeting this month. The fourteen-member panel, with seven member each from Kentucky and Indiana, is committed to building spans in downtown Louisville and eastern Jefferson County and a reworking of Spaghetti Junction, now with an estimated cost of more than $4 billion. Opposition groups, however, are committed to fighting the project. They favor some variation of the current plan, and say the formation of an authority isn’t going to silence them.

One of the most vocal opponents in Metro Government of the two bridges plan is Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh. She also opposes the mayor’s four appointments to the authority because they do not include any council members. She says the public should have a representative on the panel .

“We don’t vote on anything. We don’t get to deliberate on anything,” she says. “Their recommendation goes to Frankfort, and we have no vote in Frankfort, other than our elected officials.”

Even though the authority will have public meetings, Ward-Pugh wants citizens to have a more direct voice in the project. She says two bridges are unnecessary and too expensive, and predicts that will eventually become clear to others.

“Once we move forward building the east-end bridge as is slated to be built first, this community and the leaders now who are for two bridges will understand clearly why we just need one East-End bridge and we’ll have time to try it on for size and see what works,” she says.

Ward-Pugh’s plan is similar to the one put forward by the group 8664. It proposes only an east-end bridge and a new parkway in place of interstate 64 downtown. 8664 leaders say they will remain committed to their plan as the authority begins its work. And then there’s the conservation group River Fields, which has its own ideas about bridge location.

“River Fields isn’t in favor of massive concrete projects at all, but is aware of the purpose and need of this project,” says River Fields’ attorney Bob Griffith.

Griffith says the current plan for two bridges is outdated and ignores modern public transportation. A fresh study, Griffith says, would recommend improved public transit, a reduced Spaghetti Junction and, if needed, a downtown bridge but no east-end bridge. He says River Fields is calling for the current plans to be re-examined and has taken the matter to court.

“River Fields and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have filed a lawsuit which challenges the environmental impact statement and ask that it be re-opened for further study,” he says.

“The basic project has been studied enough,” says Joe Reagan, president of Greater Louisville Inc, the chamber of commerce, and a member of the bi-state authority. He says more research won’t reveal anything new.

“This is what has been studied and it has been determined. And it is a system. And the system works if you work the system. If you try to cherry-pick and say we’re only going to build half the project, it doesn’t work,” he says.

Reagan says there have been enough delays in the project and he’s confident a two bridges solution will move forward once the authority begins meeting. He’s not yet sure what will be discussed initially, but finding a financing mechanism will be among the top agenda items.

While the authority was formed to transcend political pressure and speed up the bridges’ construction, it’s clear that every decision will face challenges, as Ward-Pugh, 8664 and River Fields remain dedicated to their own visions for the bridges project.

Comments Closed


Joey B December 9, 2009 at 9:14 am

They need to get over it. Ms. Phew is one of the reasons Louisville can’t get anything accomplished. There is no one on the council who would have a clue about what to do on the committee.

The project is a FEDERAL project, not a Metro project. There is no reason the council should have anything to say on a FEDERAL project that happens to be located in Louisville. They already had their say for the 5 years of public meetings, etc.

And as far as the 8664 DEVELOPERS who want to build buildings, give me a break. The limited support they got from the original “pretty picture” was completely misleading. many of those original supporters don’t suppport 8664 anymore because they wanted it all left GREEN, not more buildings.

By the way, the bridges project adds over 40 acres adjacent to Waterfront Park.

S. Murphy December 11, 2009 at 10:12 am

The addition of a downtown bridge is a frivolous expense and does not take into account $60,000 traffic study conducted by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. KTC found that the ORB Project would be 99 percent as effective without the downtown bridge.

Delays and obstructions to a large-scale project such as this one are to be expected. Yet speeding the process along by creating an “authority” may be well-intentioned but appears to be motivated solely on politics and not on the best interests of the community. As for the suggestion that there have been 5 years of public meetings, it should be noted that meetings were minimally publicized and public involvement was marginal.

What should be recognized by ORBP and is their common interest in seeing an East End Bridge built. Opposition to the bridge by River Fields is blatantly obstructionist and should be recognized as such during the impending case.

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