Remember last week when we told you about the New York Times architecture critic’s riveting IdeaFestival forum with Steve Wilson?
Michael Kimmelman’s main observation about Louisville, aside from noting our current Renaissance, was that city leadership needs to undue “all the horrible things you’ve done” including running Interstate-64 between downtown and the Ohio River, our great natural nachas.
Kimmelman just filed a long piece, “Does Louisville Need More Highways,” this morning in his “Critic’s Notebook” section, a piece imploring Louisville to stop defacing itself by adding a second downtown bridge and introducing even more off ramps into the Spaghetti Junction eyesore.
His main point is, just as every other city is undoing insanely shortsighted infrastructure projects from the 1950s and 1960s – the neighborhood killing expressways – Louisville is adding more concrete confusion and traffic mayhem.
So what is Louisville doing now? Pursuing a plan that would, in part, enlarge the downtown highways and construct a second bridge next to the Kennedy. It would even eat up some of a park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, of Prospect Park and Central Park fame. Louisville is a car city with auto plants and a big investment in the auto industry. But still, I was stunned to hear this. The proposal, so clearly out of step, has been met with grass-roots opposition and is now in the courts, tied up over issues about financing, tolls and the environment.
At the IF forum, Kimmelman made the point that whenever a city builds another road, it doesn’t lessen congestion. It invariably adds to congestion.
In today’s piece, Kimmelman quotes at length Ted Smith, our economic development czar and chief innovator, and Deborah Berke, the New York architect who designed Wilson’s first 21C Museum Hotel at Seventh and Main streets. Both Smith and Berke have the influence to speak wisdom to the powerful including Metro Mayor Greg Fischer and business leaders who can stop the downtown bridge.
Will they have the courage? And will Fischer have the courage to both defy Gov. Steve Beshear, who’s never met a terrible idea he didn’t like, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels? Because splitting the Kentucky-Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project means Kentucky has an obligation to fund the downtown bridge, with Indiana responsible for the East End Bridge, a bridge that makes economic sense.
If Kentucky reneges on the deal, does that doom the East End Bridge, as well?
Sixty years of Louisville leadership from William O. Cowger to Dr. Harvey Sloane to Jerry Abramson made mistake after mistake when it comes to downtown, from urban renewal to the Fourth Avenue Mall to deals with The Cordish Cos.
If I’m reading Kimmelman correctly, he’s recommending that instead of spending billions on more four-lane folly, maybe Louisville first should spend the billions to undo all the poorly planned downtown junctions, off ramps and overpasses that mar this city.