Louisville Metro Government officials are hoping that by 2022, Ninth Street, from the riverfront to Broadway, will look less like a hazardous highway on the edge of downtown and more like a version of Queens Quay in Toronto.
The street has long been considered problematic, as it effectively divides downtown from the predominantly minority neighborhoods in west Louisville, as well as promotes high vehicles speeds and dangerous crossing conditions for pedestrians.
“It’s well past time for the physical and psychological divide at Ninth Street to end,” Mayor Greg Fischer said in a news release highlighting ways that the street could be transformed.
The draft plan, which was created by consultant Gehl Architects with input from residents, shows three alternatives for Ninth Street but identifies one — the Urban Parkway — as the optimal choice, asserting that it would provide adequate vehicle capacity while improving safety for pedestrians and cyclist and creating new public space.
The Urban Parkway plan would make Ninth Street a four-lane road, down from six lanes, and reduce the lane width to between 10 feet and 11 feet, down from its current 11 to 14 feet. The plan also calls for a bike lane divided from the vehicle lanes, a shorter median, a walking path from Broadway to the Ohio River and 20- to 25-foot landscaped sidewalks with places to sit, play and shop.
The other two options presented in the draft document are the Urban Boulevard and Urban Street. Both include similar features to the Urban Parkway design, but the Urban Boulevard design focuses on creating a parklike space in a widened median, and the Urban Street design would reduce the street to three lanes total.
The draft plan states that the Urban Boulevard would not close the gap between downtown and west Louisville and that the city would struggle to build a feeling of ownership over the space; it also says the Urban Street option would not likely meet traffic demands.
Fischer has included $180,000 in his budget for fiscal year 2019 to begin formal design work; the city also has started looking for to implementation funding, with the goal of starting construction in 2020.
Starting this year, however, the city will test changes to Ninth Street, including lengthening the time for pedestrians to cross at intersections, install up-lighting near trees in the median and closing the slip lane at Jefferson Street, according to the plan.
People can comment on the draft plan through July 30 or at one of three public events:
- An open house from 6 to 8 p.m. on July 10 at Louisville Urban League, 1535 W. Broadway
- Metro Council District 5 meeting at 6 p.m. on July 16 at the Yearlings Club, 4309 W. Broadway
- Bates Memorial Church Extravaganza from noon to 5 p.m. on July 28 at Shelby Park, 600 E. Oak St.
In 2015, the city dedicated funding to add additional lighting underneath the Interstate 64 exit ramp onto Ninth Street to help improve connectivity and safety. A team of architects, designers and fabricators also are building “a giant urban furniture installation” called The Louisville Knot under the exit ramp; the project is expected to be completed this summer.