By Curtis Morrison
Remember in 2005 when 8664 co-founders Tyler Allen and J.C. Stites were right about the bridges, especially the proposed changes downtown?
According to the 8664.org website, the two local businessmen founded the grassroots organization “after seeing pictures of the proposed 23-lane Spaghetti Junction planned for Louisville’s waterfront.”
Allen and Stites wanted to promote a different vision for the Ohio River Bridges Project. A vision that would remove Interstate-64 from Louisville’s waterfront. A plan that would require altering the 2003 Record of Decision (ROD).
The ROD cannot be altered! warned the powers that were at the time. Because that would require a new environmental review and that would set us back forever, we were told.
Repeatedly, we were told to back off.
By then-Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, then-GLI CEO Joe Reagan, then-Bridges Coalition spokesperson David Nicklies and Executive Director Steve Schultz, and their army of PR hacks.
Say No to Bridge Tolls was formed in 2010 with the creation of a Facebook group. The group now includes 1,459 members.
That’s when the PR campaign to keep things as they are went into overdrive. These transit-obstructionists had to be stopped once and for all!
At one Bridges Authority meeting held in Prospect, Authority member Sandra Frazier formally raised the question of whether it it was possible to split the project? A key first step in the 8664 proposal. Was this hope?
No. At the following Authority meeting in August of 2010, listen how then-Authority Executive Director Schultz spends three minutes explaining the chaos that would envelope Louisville if we continued talking about such misguided silliness:
Like a 5-year delay. The 2010 rule where the FHWA could come back and get money back from us? Lot’s wife wouldn’t even have looked back to such a scary idea.
Immediately following Schultz’s explanation, Reagan dramatically re-stated it and asked Frazier if she was satisfied with the explanation on why the Record of Decision could never be altered and she confirmed she was.
Many of those then-players have moved on to bigger things. But does that exclude them from accountability for being, you know, wrong?
After all, they’re still around, just in other capacities.
They needn’t worry about the consequences or outcomes about being wrong. If there’s anything we’ve learned from the Louisville Arena Authority-model, it’s that once the truth comes out a couple years later, it’s a fresh new problem that’s completely unrelated to the people who created it.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration announced Wednesday that the environmental review required for the ROD design modifications made by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has been approved just a bit more than a year after it was announced.
Curiously, the actual release from the Feds mentioned only one tunnel for the southern approach to the East End Bridge:
“…build a new SR-265 East End facility that includes a new bridge over the Ohio River and a tunnel connecting to the I-265 Gene Snyder Freeway.”
Um, unless there’s another modification they haven’t told us about, there are two inadequate tunnels proposed in the modification.
The moral of this story?
The Record of Decision cannot be changed. No matter what. Unless, of course, it is our idea.
When so-called Kentucky leaders tell us something can’t be done, let’s start reading between the lines.
Sometimes what they mean to say is, “We’re making decisions around here, and we’ll say anything to make you go away. We don’t care if we look like hypocrites because the most important thing is that we get our way.”
The Daniels-Beshear-Fischer-Subvert-the-public-will-club might be wise to hold up on any planned Museum Plaza-style ribbon-cutting ceremonies. At least for a minute.
Sources outside of Louisville are reporting a detail that shouldn’t be ignored: ”Still pending, however, is federal approval for tolling to help pay for the construction.” -The Washington Post
“An 18-month approval of the environmental impact of a ROD-modification is proof the Bridges Authority has misrepresented the obstacles in changing the project.” said Shawn Reilly, co-founder of Say No to Bridge Tolls.
“When the Authority says we can’t make the project toll-free, maybe we should take all the Wall Street bankers out of the room, and ask, ‘Are you sure?’ ”
About Curtis Morrison: Curtis Morrison is a journalist who blogs at Louisville Courant. Morrison is a political activist, active in historic-preservation efforts.