400 comment on 'road diet,' sponsor defends process


by Joe Arnold


Posted on May 10, 2012 at 6:54 PM

Updated Friday, May 11 at 12:15 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Nearly 400 people submitted opinions on the Brownsboro Road "road diet" during a 30 day public comment period which ended April 30. 

In the comments now posted on the city's website, many opponents complain that the city failed to adequately inform the public of the extent of the project. 


Click here for PDF public comments on Brownsboro Road Diet.

"Public notification using signs along the entire length of Brownsboro Road should have, and still should be done before any further movement," reads one comment.

Impatient supporters implore Mayor Greg Fischer to approve the plan, immedidately.

A supporter writes -- "Whatever small inconvenience to motorists might result is in my opinion greatly outweighed by the major enhancement for pedestrians."

157 comments were registered in favor of the controversial road plan.  221 opposing comments were submitted.  11 other comments did not specify a preference in the WHAS11 review

Fischer has yet to review the comments, he told WHAS11 on Thursday, also insisting that he had not yet decided whether to allow the road narrowing plan to advance.

"We wanted to have this 30 day period in case something new came up," Fischer said.  "Obviously, this process started in the previous administration, so it's been going on a long time.  I want to make sure the process has been followed, no new data has surfaced or anything like that.  So, we'll be coming to that decision in the next couple of weeks."

The road diet aims to slow traffic by reducing about one half mile of the road from two lanes each direction to one lane each direction with a center turn lane.

A sidewalk would be added to the cliff side of Brownsboro Road.

"We would have said something sooner if we had seen road diet coming out in a public notice," explained Jim Dahlem with save42.org, a coalition of Brownsboro Road business owners opposed to the plan.

"The people who show up are the ones who make the decisions," said Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, who has spearheaded the project for some six years.

"Do you want me to stop this project dead still for another three years just so they can attend a series of meetings they didn't attend before?" Ward-Pugh (D) said.

Ward-Pugh says she is "baffled" by the recent backlash to the project which she says resolves or greatly diminishes dangerous conditions for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

"My constituents can boot me out of office tomorrow for it but I know that this is the right thing to do," Ward-Pugh said. "It is the direction that our community should head, we should be recreating more, we should be riding bikes more, walking more, shopping locally."

"If you're going to take traffic off this road you're going to take customers off this road," Dahlem said.

Dahlem said he is speaking out only now because - until recently - property owners had no idea that the sidewalk project would narrow the heavily traveled U.S. Highway.

When Ward-Pugh first announced public meetings in 2007, the project was described as a "pedestrian access project" to improve "Brownsboro Road for pedestrians and traffic flow."

A May, 2008 notice described a neighborhood meeting as the "Final Discussion of the Brownsboro Road Pedestrian Access/sidewalk project."

It wasn't until 2011 - last year - that a Ward Pugh newsletter used the words "road diet" and that the project would reduce traffic lanes.

An opponent writes --

"... the way this propoal has transpired was one which was not responsible to our neighborhood, and one wonders who is behind it."

Ward-Pugh said the city and her council office "absolutely" did a good enough job of informing the public.

"I am 110 percent confident that our office and public works and the neighborhood associations did everything we always do and more," Ward-Pugh said, dismissing a question whether the public notices were ambiguously worded so as not to attract opposition.

"Oh never," Ward-Pugh responded.

"My job is not to create a perfect system so that everybody feels good at the end of what we do," Ward-Pugh added.  "That's not what drives what I do."

Though Ward-Pugh said she was not blaming any of the "road diet" opponents for not being aware of the project, she criticized Dahlem's stance on the issue.

"I don't think it's fair for him or them to blame the process when in fact they all at some point knew of this project but chose not to get involved," Ward-Pugh said.

Dahlem argued that business owners chose not to participate in a January public meeting on the project because Ward-Pugh, in a December 21 letter Dahlem shared with WHAS11 News, made clear that the plans were already set.

"While I have agreed to have a Community Forum meeting which includes another update on the Brownsboro Road Diet, I was very clear at that meeting that this project would continue moving forward and that I had no intentions of slowing it down," Ward-Pugh wrote to Dahlem. 

The letter also dismissed information introduced by the businesses as already having been discussed and processed.

In a December 29 e-mail to "road diet" supporters, Ward-Pugh's legislative assistant emphasized that the meeting "will not change the plans of the project and the project is moving forward."

"The only negative thing that we can even come up with is that people in a car or SUV or vehicle might be delayed 10 to 20

seconds per trip wherever they're going," Ward-Pugh told WHAS11.  "I would ask you, is that not a small price to pay for all those other things that we're accomplishing?"

"We're not against mobility, we're not against sidewalks," Dahlem said.  "but we think a narrowing of Brownsboro Road is too far reaching."

"I'm confident that what we're going to do will be better for their business," Ward-Pugh said.  "I think it's just change."

"It is very important for busy East end lawyers and other important people to have easy access to downtown from the comfort of their palatial, hermetically sealed McMansions. But the on-ramp to I-71 does not start at Brownsboro Road."