Move Louisville identifies $1.4 billion in transportation priorities

Courtesy of Louisville Metro Government

This map shows where the 16 priority projects are focused. | Courtesy of Louisville Metro Government

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer on Thursday unveiled Move Louisville, a 110-page, 20-year plan that identifies $1.4 billion in high-priority transportation projects.

Move Louisville “will influence the type of city we become in the future,” Fischer said.

The plan lists 16 projects aimed at improving transportation for drivers, public transit riders, pedestrians and cyclists. It also looks to cut down on the amount of miles Louisvillians drive. Half of all car trips are 3 miles or less; 28 percent are less than 1 mile, according to Move Louisville.

“Becoming a healthier city is I think one of the goals we all share, and if we can make it easier for citizens to walk, bike, [or] grab alternate transportation those short distances, we become a healthier city. Reducing our vehicle miles traveled also improves our air quality,” Fischer said. “We’ve made great progress, but we need to make more.”

Fewer vehicles on the road also means less congestion, he said. The city needs to offer viable alternative transportation options while dis-incentivizing those who drive to work or other places alone rather than carpooling or using another mode of transit.

Louisville has more than 58,000 parking spaces, and drivers pay an average of $74.13 a month on parking. “The over-supply and underpricing of parking creates an almost irresistible incentive to drive,” according to Move Louisville. The plan suggests that the city deter drivers by raising the parking rates and bringing them more in line with peer cities such as Nashville and Indianapolis where monthly parking costs average $115.

Move Louisville does not include a light rail project, which some residents and transportation activists have called for in the past. Fischer said the city doesn’t have the population density needed and the city is too sprawled to make a light rail system worth the investment.

Transportation activist Jackie Green criticized the plan, stating that it doesn’t take action to reduce residential and commercial investment in the farther reaches of Louisville. He specifically called out plans to extend Urton Lane from Middletown to Taylorsville Road — one of the 16 priority projects.

“Urton Lane only opens up forests and fields to remote investment, decreasing population density,” Green wrote in the Facebook post. “Remote investment works against achieving the second priority stated by the mayor/MoveL. That stated priority is to reduce the miles driven by Louisville citizens. That priority is achieved by increasing density, investing in public transit and creating walk-able communities.

“Increasing density, investing in public transit and creating walk-able communities are inseparable basics in creating a sustainable city. Move Louisville failed to grasp those basics.”

In addition to the Urton Lane extension, the plan identifies street projects for Broadway, Lexington Road and River Road that are similar to the $28.9 million Dixie Highway do-over project. The plans could include widening or adding sidewalks, creating a cycling track, adding a rapid bus transit line or possibly streetcars and creating a designated middle turn lane.

The Broadway project, which will run from Shawnee to the Highlands, will help Louisville’s low-income residents move around the city more efficiently, Fischer said, as will a project that will add two bus routes connecting Dixie Highway to Westport Road, one that runs inside the Watterson Expressway and another outside of it. The routes can connect to places such as Riverport, United Parcel Service, Renaissance South Business Park and Bluegrass Commerce Center, where a high number of jobs are located.

“It was important that this plan address all needs of the community both from a geographic standpoint and from a socioeconomic standpoint,” he said.

Other priority projects include the completion of the 100-mile Louisville Loop; better sidewalk and bike lane connectivity; a re-imagining of Ninth Street; the transformation of downtown’s one-way streets into two-way streets; construction of new roads that make access to the Parklands of Floyds Fork easier; improved maintenance of the streets, bike lanes and sidewalks throughout west Louisville; and the reconfiguration of the “oddly designed” intersection of Story Avenue, Main Street and Baxter Avenue.

To read the full Move Louisville plan and more details about the 16 priority projects, click here. Residents have the next 60 days to review and comment on the plan, and the city will host several open houses during that time, including one tonight at 6 p.m. at the Transit Authority of River City’s headquarters, 1000 W. Broadway.

No timeline was provided for when construction work on the projects could begin. First, the city will need to seek state and federal funding, as well as look within its own coffers.

The money will be above and beyond the city’s current annual transportation funding, which pays for maintaining Louisville’s existing infrastructure. Annual maintenance costs are $17.75 million, according to Louisville Metro Government, which allocates an estimated $14 million a year to transportation.

The mayor said he may ask Metro Council to consider a property tax increase to help close the $55.7 million annual gap between the funding the city needs to execute the plan and the city’s annual transportation appropriations. It would need $69.7 million annually to fund the 16 projects identified in Move Louisville.

“Nothing’s free,” Fischer said. “If people want more, than a logical conclusion is how do you pay for more.”

If the local option sales tax ever passes the Kentucky General Assembly — it failed again this session — it could be another revenue stream for Move Louisville.

“Clearly, that would be a way to really jumpstart the plan because that generates $125 million to $150 million a year,” Fischer said. “What we’re hearing from Frankfort is when total tax reform takes place they will be looking at things like local option.”

With $750,000 in local and federal funding, the city hired San Francisco-based Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates to craft the Move Louisville plan along with Louisville Metro Government’s Office of Advanced Planning, TARC and the Department of Public Works.

The plan has been in the works since 2013. It is the first “transformative transportation plan” Louisville has created since 1979, according to Fischer.

“A lot has changed since then. Our city, our population and our economy all have changed, and we’ve made some updates to our infrastructure,” he said. “But in too many cases, our citizens are still navigating the same roads, the bridges and overpasses, and facing the transportation challenges that [they] were back in 1979. And we all know that is something we have to fix.”