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Fischer okays road diet, opponents decry flawed process

Fischer okays road diet, opponents decry flawed process

by Joe Arnold


Posted on June 1, 2012 at 3:01 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 1 at 3:48 PM

News releases from mayor, opponents follow:

Project to Improve Safety, Add Sidewalks on Lower Brownsboro Road to Proceed
Decision follows 30-day comment period and years of discussion

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (June 1, 2012) – In 2001, Louisville city alderwoman Tina 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 should also 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 — 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, which ended recently.

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 will allow the project to proceed.

Fischer said he made the decision after carefully reviewing public input and studying alternative proposals that date back to the project’s inception 11 years ago. Fifteen public meetings have been held on the project as well as several meetings specifically for business owners.

“There are passionate people on all sides of the Brownsboro Road Diet Project and I sincerely appreciate everyone’s participation in the process,” Fischer said. “My role in this process was to address the concerns of a group of citizens that approached my administration, feeling that they did not have adequate input.”

 “I believe this project is in the best interest of the city and will improve public safety in the area where many visually impaired and blind citizens reside. For those citizens that expressed concerns over travel delays and congestion, the data, including that of their own expert, does not support the cancelation of this project.”

Fischer continued. “Therefore, I will not overturn the original decision by the administration of former Mayor Jerry Abramson and the project can proceed as long planned.”

Construction is expected to begin in early summer.

Section one, from Dresher 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 said 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.

“Though the additional six months of input yielded no new information, I appreciate why Mayor Fischer set aside an additional comment period,” Ward-Pugh said.  “After six years of studying this particular plan, it is time to get this project done and improve the safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.  I applaud Mayor Fischer and all of the engineers from both government and private firms who have spent years working on this solution and are confident about its resulting improvements to our community's health and safety.  And for the residents and business owners who hung in there over the past 12 years to come up with a viable solution, our community will be enhanced exponentially for your good and steady leadership.”

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.

Statement from Save42.org

On behalf of Save42.org, and the 2,400 citizens who signed our petition, we wouldfirst like to thank the Mayor and his staff for giving this matter sincere consideration.

As you can imagine, we are disappointed with this decision, and we respectfully disagree.  Our group remains concerned that this “Road Diet” does not adequately address thepedestrian safety and access issues. Furthermore, we continue to believe that this project will negatively impact the businesses on lower Brownsboro Road.

Given where we are today, we hope we’re wrong in our assessment.

Despite how some have portrayed us in the media, we have, and always will be, dedicated to what’s best for our city. Because of that, it’s time we move forward.

That being said, we call upon Mayor Fischerand the Metro Council to ensure that the lack of notice and public involvement on a project as important as this one will NEVER again be repeated.

There should be measures put into place that require, at the very least, written public notice to all property owners affected when a road project of this magnitude is being considered.

We also appreciate the time and attention that you, the media, have given to this subject. Without you, there is no way the public would have been informed on this matter.

Thank you.