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Temporary Walkway on Main Street Pleases CART

by Stephanie Crosby

A protest that was planned for this afternoon at Second and Main Streets in Louisville has been scrapped. CART – or the Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation – had planned the protest because construction zones there had no temporary walkway for pedestrians, forcing them to walk in the street.

But CART Vice-President Dave Morse says such walkways were erected yesterday. He says while it comes a few weeks after the start of the project, it’s a welcome addition.

“We’d like to see this technique used more often,” says Morse. “We’d like to see this technique incorporated into the planning phase of a project, so that there’s never a time when pedestrians are wading out into the street.”

Morse says they would have liked to see wheelchair ramps for the temporary walkways, but understands the project is temporary.

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Public Hearing On Museum Plaza Loan Planned For Wednesday

On Wednesday, Kentuckians will have a chance to weigh in on a new fundraising plan for the Museum Plaza skyscraper.

The tower is planned for downtown Louisville, but has been on hold for more than two years. The state is now planning to seek a $100 million loan through the Department of Housing and Urban Development to bolster construction.

The loan would come from private investors, through HUD, to Kentucky, where Museum Plaza’s developers have promised to repay and guarantee the funds. The application for the money will be sent to HUD this month, and Developer Craig Greenberg expects it will be judged on several criteria.

“What kind of public and private support does the project have? Will it achieve the goals of job creation for low and moderate-income individuals? Will it attract folks to work at the project from the surrounding communities? What will the overall economic impact be of the project?” he says.

Before the application can be submitted, it must be open for public comment. A hearing on the plan will be held Wednesday in Frankfort.

Greenberg says the tower’s hotels, offices and other facilities will offer permanent jobs to regional workers. The total cost of the project is about $465 million.

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Eastern Parkway Set to Re-Open Tomorrow

by Stephanie Crosby

Eastern Parkway on the University of Louisville campus is set to re-open tomorrow after months of construction. Transportation Cabinet spokesperson Andrea Clifford says the seven-million dollar project included some changes to the I-65 interchange there, some streetscape improvements near the J.B. Speed Engineering School and bridge improvements.

Clifford says the railroad bridge at Third and Eastern Parkway has seen a lot of damage from over-height trucks getting stuck while trying to travel underneath. Part of the project includes new technology to alert those drivers of the danger.

“Apparently, a lot of truck drivers have not been reading the signs that tell of the height restriction of that viaduct, and we’ve had vehicles get stuck under there many times, that’s why this system is being installed as an extra warning,” says Clifford, “and it’s already in place and working.”

The streetscape improvements include the addition of a raised median and bike lane.

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Johnstone Says Stimulus Projects Will Pick Up Soon

The head of the Louisville At Work program, which oversees federal stimulus funding, says the program has exceeded his expectations.

Rick Johnstone addressed a Metro Council committee Wednesday. He says around 458 million stimulus dollars have come to Louisville, and that’s twice as much as he expected when the stimulus bill became law early last year.

The money is credited with creating about 11 hundred jobs, some of them seasonal or temporary. Johnstone says the jobs number is determined by a formula and is not an accurate representation of the money’s effectiveness.

“When you do the federal number, the FTE—full time equivalent, the calculation is 1,152 people. Actually, more than 2,100 people received money—stimulus dollars—as a result of work that was created because of the ARRA funding,” he says.

Johnstone says his major complaint with the stimulus is the number of regulatory hurdles that must be cleared before money can be spent.

“This was supposed to be shovel-ready stuff, 60 days,” he says. “We’re just getting ready to do sidewalks, it’s been a year and two months. We’ve been looking at environmental on sidewalks, we’ve been looking at all kinds of hurdles we have to go through.”

Johnstone says in the coming months, work on some 25 hundred projects will begin.

For more on the difficulties presented by multiple stimulus projects underway simultaneously, click here.

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Harrods Creek Bridge Construction On Track

by Gabe Bullard

The rebuilding and widening of Harrods Creek Bridge in eastern Jefferson County is set to be completed in August.

In November 2008, the bridge was closed due to safety concerns. Since then, Metro Government’s plan to rebuild and widen the one-lane span has faced several delays. The conservation group River Fields sought to protect the bridge, and filed two lawsuits to that effect.

The group won an injunction last summer, but later lost a federal appeal and dropped both suits. Construction resumed in the fall, but was delayed once more by winter weather.

Mayor’s spokesperson Lindsay English says progress has been slow for the last few months, but will resume at full speed soon.

“By the middle of April, the crews will be bringing about nine 70-foot-long beams and the next step will be to add the decking panels on top,” she says. “So there’s going to be a lot of progress out there in the next month or so.”

The project’s budget is $2 million.

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Eastern Parkway Bridge Work To Continue Through June

Improvements on a portion of Eastern Parkway at the University of Louisville will be completed next week. But other parts of the road will be closed into next year.

The section of the parkway between Third Street and the JB Speed School of Engineering will be re-opened next week. But the bridge over the railroad tracks farther east will need additional work.

“They found more problems, more deterioration with the bridge than was previously thought,” says Transportation Cabinet spokesperson Andrea Clifford. “Some of it, you just couldn’t detect until you actually started taking the bridge deck off.”

Work will continue through next June. Clifford says it’s not yet clear how much the extra work will cost.

“The contractor will have to propose a cost to us of what they think it will take, and then we look at it and negotiate,” she says. “So really, to have a definite price, I don’t know if I’ll have that.”

The Eastern Parkway work is part of a seven million dollar project that also includes realigned ramps at Interstate 65.

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Cabbage Patch Completes Expansion

Photo Courtesy Cabbage PatchThe Cabbage Patch Settlement House in Old Louisville has completed a multi-year expansion project.

Cabbage Patch, which provides various services for at-risk children, has renovated 10 thousand square feet of its Old Louisville headquarters and has added an additional 19 thousand square feet. The extra space includes a common area and theater.

“I’m tired of seeing the kids try to do a play in the gymnasium where nobody can hear them,” says Executive Director Tracy Holladay. “We’ve got a little theatre, so to speak, a large room, and we’ve got a fellowship hall kind of space. It’s space we have needed, literally, for decades.”

The project cost seven-and-a-half million dollars, and the organization still needs to raise two million dollars.  Holladay says he hopes that will happen before next summer.

“We do not want to do long-term debt service,” he says. “We believe that will hamper our operating budget and cause really challenging times in terms of programming. So we really would like to get these dollars raised in the next six months or so.”

Holladay says Cabbage Patch currently serves about 100 children. He expects that number to reach 125 with the new facilities.

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Harrods Creek Bridge Construction Delayed By Months

Legal battles have delayed the completion date for reconstruction of the Harrods Creek Bridge in eastern Jefferson County. It was closed by state inspectors last November due to safety concerns.

The city began rebuilding and widening the one-lane span in June, but faced two lawsuits from the conservation group River Fields, which sought to preserve the bridge’s original structure.

River Fields won an injunction in July, but eventually lost a federal appeal and dropped both suits. But the injunction stopped work during summer months, when the weather is favorable for large projects. Mayor’s spokesperson Chris Poynter says there’s not much construction that can be done this year.

“They’re going to be able to work for maybe a month or two more, depending on the weather. Then when it gets very cold in late December, early January, they’re most likely going to have to stop for a couple months,” he says.

Construction was originally set to be finished this year, but will now continue through next fall. Poynter says the delay will not likely increase the project’s two-million dollar cost.

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Revive 65 Southbound Work Begins

The southbound portion of the Revive 65 project begins Monday. Several lanes of Interstate 65 will be closed between the Watterson Expressway and Fern Valley Road.

The repaving of several miles of southbound 65 is expected to continue around the clock until November 15th. Northbound work was extended one week due to unstable soil conditions under portions of the highway. Transportation Cabinet spokesperson Andrea Clifford says it’s unclear if this portion of the project could face similar delays.

“When we get into the southbound work and remove those concrete layers, we’ll have to see if the soil on that side is stable enough to hold the construction traffic and the new roadway or if we’re going to have to do what’s called undercutting and remove that soil and go back with aggregate,” she says.

After the 15th, lighter work will continue at night for another month.

“The rest of the work as to be completed by December 15th, and that is items like guardrail installations and bridge-joint repairs, but those lane closures will be restricted to nights and weekends,” says Clifford.

The total project will cost 28 million dollars, 18 million of which will come from the federal stimulus package.

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Construction to Shut Down Lanes of I-65

Motorists who use I-65 will encounter delays starting today between the Watterson Expressway and Fern Valley Road. The Transportation Cabinet is beginning its ‘Revive 65’ project, which will replace concrete road on that three-mile stretch with asphalt.

Governor Steve Beshear says it’ll be inconvenient for motorists, but the project is important.

“Some 186,000 vehicles travel this route every day,” says Beshear. “So it’s imperative that the public become aware of this project and start planning alternate routes. Delays are inevitable.”

The interstate will never be completely closed during the project, but several lanes will be closed at various times. Construction will take place mostly during off-peak hours.

The project is expected to cost $28.7 million.