Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bridges, Tolls & 1-64 along the Waterfront

Interstate 64 along Louisville’s waterfront has been a sore point for the city for some time. In 1999, Doug Cobb (then president and CEO of Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce) proposed solving this problem by removing the interstate, reversing what may be one of Louisville's greatest urban planning mistakes.

In a meeting of the Southern Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Cobb presented the innovative concept to remove I-64 from Louisville's waterfront with detailed drawings of Waterfront Park and the realignment of I-64 to the proposed East End bridge. Mr. Cobb's idea, however, gained almost no media attention, and soon disappeared from public discussions. David Barhorst and David Coyte of the Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation, both of whom were at the 1999 presentation, expressed support for Mr. Cobb’s solution to the I-64 problem.

In 2005, two Louisville business men, J. C. Stites and Tyler Allen launched a public media campaign to advance Mr. Cobb’s idea. Nonetheless, the idea (now rejected by Mr. Cobb as nothing but a “paper dream”) has not gained the support of elected officials in Jefferson County.

Now, with the discussion of tolls in Louisville to pay for new bridges, it is time to discuss the fate of I-64 along the waterfront in this new context.

I’ve been having my own “paper dreams” of late. Thus far the discussion of tolls has centered upon whether or not to toll both new and old bridges or just the new bridges. A different approach would be to use the tolls to deter drive through traffic in downtown Louisville along the waterfront. Once the east end bridge is completed, re-route I-64 around Louisville and toll vehicles that pass through downtown Louisville going both east and west. If we can toll old bridges, we should be able to toll old interstates. Go around downtown, your journey from east to west (or west to east) is free. Go through downtown, you are tolled. One tolling station near the Galt House could serve both East and West bound traffic. The effect of the tolling might help the city in judging the feasibility of Mr. Cobb’s “paper dream.” Would people who were just passing through travel along the waterfront if it were slower (no I-64) or more expensive (tolled)? The toll effect might approximate the effect of eliminating I-64 and give everyone a chance to evaluate the new traffic patterns.

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