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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Construction work is set to begin today on the controversial Brownsboro Road project.
The plan, which has been supported by Metro Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, will add sidewalks to Lower Brownsboro Road and reduce the roadway from four to three lanes between Drescher Bridge Avenue and Ewing Avenue. Mayor Greg Fischer approved the project after public meetings and numerous traffic studies.
Members of the group Save42.org oppose the project, saying it will have a negative impact on business owners and traffic. It released a position paper last month detailing why the group of business leaders is against the $400,000 plan. They fear the current project would cripple business and only make traffic flow worse. Business owner Teresa Davis said last month, "It's just an unnecessary thing to happen, to cost so much money and not really make it any easier for business or pedestrians. Brownsboro Road is never going to be a walk-around type community like Frankfort Avenue like Tina Ward-Pugh hopes it will be, it's not designed that way."
Opponents are calling for other ways to slow down traffic, such as traffic lights or changing the speed limit, rather than reducing the number of lanes.
It started in 2001, when then-Louisville city Alderwoman Ward-Pugh began working on a project to add sidewalks on a small portion of Lower Brownsboro Road in the Clifton and Clifton Heights neighborhoods.
The sidewalks were needed to improve pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular safety in the area where the Kentucky School for the Blind and the American Printing House for the Blind are located and where many visually-impaired children and adults live and work. Because of a tall limestone cliff that abuts Brownsboro Road, the stretch did not have sidewalks.
Initially, three construction alternatives were developed and vetted by a licensed engineering firm. The first included blasting the limestone to add the sidewalk and another suggested physically moving the road. Both were determined to be too costly and didn't achieve all of the desired results.
The third alternative, the Brownsboro Road Diet, was ultimately approved in 2007. This plan would reduce the road from four to three lanes and add a sidewalk. Based on an analysis of the number and type of accidents, the road diet is expected to have the added benefit of helping reduce accidents in the area. There have been 172 accidents in the Road Diet section over the past five years. In contrast, a similar stretch of Brownsboro Road (from Ewing to University) which handles the same traffic volume and is a comparable corridor had half that number, has had 83 accidents over the past five years.
In 2008, under then Mayor Jerry Abramson and Metro Councilwoman Ward-Pugh, the project was put out for bid. When bids came in higher than expected, city leaders began to look for additional funding sources.
When Greg Fischer was elected Mayor in January, 2011, the project was re-bid. In late 2011, some citizens approached the mayor stating that they felt their voices and concerns had not been adequately heard in the 15 community meetings over the years. To ensure that all opinions were considered, Fischer opened an additional 30-day comment period.
Fischer asked Metro Public Works to summarize the three separate traffic studies that evaluated the effects of the road diet on the corridor, including one from Public Works' Traffic Engineering Division and two from private firms.
The most conservative estimate concluded the road diet may delay traffic traveling through this stretch for no more than 13 seconds per vehicle.
As a result of the public comment period, Fischer also asked for a study of alternatives to the road diet that would result in the same public safety goals. Public Works evaluated several road diet alternatives including the installation of two additional pedestrian signals and an alternating lane plan. Research showed neither option as a viable nor cost-effective method of improving overall safety along the corridor.
After evaluating all the data and public comments and hearing from citizens and businesses on both sides of the issue, and finding no new material information, Mayor Fischer allowed the project to proceed.
Section one, from Drescher Bridge Road to Lindsay Ave., will use restriping to transition the roadway from four to three lanes. Section two, from Lindsay Ave. to Ewing Ave., includes reconstruction of the north curb and the addition of a sidewalk. The entire project length is 0.4 miles.
"Places as congested as New York City are embracing road diets as a best-practice for improving driver, cyclist and pedestrian safety and creating better urban environments," Fischer said.
Fischer says he believes that after the project is completed, people will adapt to the changes, as has happened in other cities in which road diets have been implemented.
"I appreciate that everyone involved in this process agreed that safety should be the deciding factor on the final decision," Fischer said earlier this month.
The project will be funded with Federal Surface Transportation Program Funds and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Funds. Councilwoman Tina Ward Pugh is contributing nearly $50,000. The total cost is estimated at $404,650.