River Road rendering

The city plans to redesign River Road between Third and Seventh streets next year. | Courtesy of Metro Public Works

Louisville Metro Public Works will unveil plans this week for a redesign of River Road between Third and Seventh streets, creating a “park-like setting.”

The project is intended to connect the current Waterfront Park to the west end of the strip, which has a long-range plan that includes Playworks at Waterfront Park and more development of the Louisville Loop over the next few years.

The city will present the plan in two public meetings downtown on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 25 and 26.

Part of the city’s reasoning for the change is because, “the area under the expressway is currently unattractive to users due to its dark and gloomy conditions,” according to a description of the plan.

In addition, city officials believe that particular portion of the stretch is difficult to navigate because of pillars supporting I-64 and the Belvedere above. The pillars, the city says, create blind spots and narrow passageways for pedestrians and cyclists.

The stretch along the waterfront, dubbed the Louisville Loop, also is divided from River Road by a concrete barrier and provides no access points with the exception of an opening near Sixth Street. As part of the city’s plan, River Road will merge into one lane at Fourth Street, and the created space will be opened up and complemented by enhanced decorative lighting, signage, artistic components and landscaping. A vehicle barrier will be constructed for pedestrian safety, according to a schematic.

West River Road

The city plans to brighten up this “dark and gloomy” stretch beneath the Belvedere. | Google photo

Metro Works said current traffic counts show there is excess capacity along this section of River Road that could provide some flexibility in redesigning this space.

Engineering consultant Gresham Smith conducted the study, which showed the project having “minimal impact” on existing travel times along that section of River Road.

“Our traffic studies said we don’t need those two lanes,” James Maynard of Metro Works’ Division of Transportation told Insider, adding that at some point a traffic signal may be warranted at Sixth Street.

The long-term plan is to extend River Road past Ninth Street; currently, the road narrows to one lane and makes a sharp turn at Eighth Street toward Washington Street. The plan for 2021 is to remove that curve to help complete the road’s extension west.

Maynard said the extension project is not directly related to Waterfront Development Corporation’s Phase IV Waterfront development, which includes Playworks, as the project will be funded through the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Transportation Alternatives Program. The cost is estimated at $500,000, and construction should begin sometime in 2020.

However, Waterfront Development Vice President Deborah Bilitski told Insider the organization is collaborating with the city, at least from a design and usability standpoint. Bilitski said that stretch of River Road is “currently uninviting and difficult to navigate,” adding, “We believe the project will greatly improve multi-modal connectivity throughout the entire park.”

She added that Waterfront Development plans to further enhance the area with signs and amenities, “so it feels as though you are still in Waterfront Park while traversing this stretch.”

The public meetings detailing the project will be Tuesday, June 25, and Wednesday, June 26, from 5:30-7 p.m. at KMAC, 715 W. Main St. The full plan will be unveiled, along with renderings.