September 26, 2006


J.C. Stites: left, and Tyler Allen are the purveyors of 8664, an alternative to the Ohio River Bridges Project that calls for the removal of the waterfront portion of I-64 in downtown Louisville. Close to 8,000 people have signed up on their Web site,, inMinutes after historic preservationist Donovan Rypkema finished his talk at last week’s smart growth conference in Louisville, Tyler Allen raised his hand. An affable 38-year-old who’s somewhat averse to direct confrontation, Allen retained a dead-eyed poker face for his ante in the Q&A, for his immediate situation last Tuesday afternoon was at once prickly and triumphantly serene.Allen — purveyor, along with his friend J.C. Stites, of 8664, an idealistic alternative to the official plan to build two new bridges and expand Spaghetti Junction — was in a room full of professionals of varying degrees, all of whom concern themselves with transportation and urban planning issues. By virtue of their concept, Allen and Stites are polarizing figures among this crowd.So Allen began by asking Rypkema, considered a national expert in his field, if he was aware that the Ohio River Bridges Project was directly responsible for the conference — it was a required part of the 2003 Record of Decision to go forward with the project. The speaker gave an affirmative nod. Allen riffed briefly on remarks Rypkema had just made about the importance of memory in economic development, growth and urban planning. He agreed with the speaker that memory is what gives things — roads, buildings, parks — both meaning and value.Then Allen arrived at his question, which just about everyone in the room could see coming: What were Rypkema’s thoughts on highways that slice through cities? A small group sitting far behind him pointed at Allen with half-smiles; one man seated at the table in front of me asked another if that guy was, in fact, Tyler Allen. Rypkema, a professional, was clearly aware of the harsh politics that whip around the Bridges Project and its alternative(s). He artfully evaded a potential trap, saying he would reply to the question directly and abstain from arguing specifics. Rypkema had spent the last hour advocating the preservation of historic structures while redeveloping cities’ urban cores, offering with it four key responsibilities of a self-evident concept called sustainable development: environmental, economic, social and cultural. A portion of the expanded Spaghetti Junction: near Slugger Field, as it will look when the Ohio River Bridges Project is finished some 15 years from now. Image courtesy of 8664With his speech still dangling in the static air of the Marriott Downtown’s Kentucky Ballroom, Rypkema’s answer was obvious. He said building highways through cities, much of which happened during the mid-20th century, was a terrible mistake that urban planners and engineers throughout the country have been laboring for a while now to fix. Allen and Stites nodded appreciatively and without emotion as he spoke words they say they’ve been hearing for the past year and more, from engineers to urban planners to smart growth advocates and beyond: Cities trying to grow their urban cores should disentangle the ribbons of highway laced through them. Highways have a destructive effect on downtowns everywhere. This is nothing new, nor is it particularly controversial among those pushing the modern concept of smart growth, which came into existence in the early 1970s and into vogue over roughly the last decade. Waterfront highway removal, considered smart growth by most, has been proven several times over, in places like Portland, Ore. (where Allen got the idea for 8664) and San Francisco, Milwaukee and Chattanooga, Tenn., to increase property values on said waterfront, help convince more people to move there by enabling a more pleasant social area, and perhaps most importantly, to avoid creating more traffic havoc.The utopian view of downtown: is 8664’s signature image. It’s a doctored photo with the waterfront portion of I-64 removed. Image courtesy of 8664Based on these tenets, 8664 is a progressive concept that has, in the past year, gained considerable traction among a rather unlikely cross-section of Louisvillians: Youthful activists and businessmen and accountants and musicians and artists and politicians (though most won’t say it) and city officials (also, like politicians, afraid to voice public support) and housewives and attorneys and soccer moms and rich people and poor people are rallying behind the idea. Of the 7,855 people signed up with as of last weekend, an unsurprising 86 percent say they “support this new vision.” Chances are you’ve seen a strategically placed yard sign or bumper sticker around town over the past several months.For most, it seems fair to say, the appeal of 8664 is in its utopian vision of a riverfront without the noodle of I-64 that runs from Spaghetti Junction to roughly 19th Street, a view ably represented on one of the five-foot-wide, full-color maps that Allen and Stites lug around when giving presentations.From that view, it’s hard to see why anyone wouldn’t support 8664. Of course, plenty of people don’t, including the Abramson administration, U.S. Rep. Anne Northup (she’s worked a decade in Congress getting federal funding for the Bridges Project), engineers and planners working with and for the Bridges Project, and any number of others entrenched in the transportation philosophy that says adding traffic capacity is the solution to complicated messes of highway like Spaghetti Junction or heavily-traversed bridges like the Kennedy.8664: would redirect I-64 traffic coming from the east onto a new East End bridge and into Southern Indiana via the existing I-265, marked I-64 in this diagram. Allen and Stites estimate the bypass is a five-mile increase. I-364 is the surface-level boulevard tThe alternative philosophy, to which Allen and Stites subscribe (so does Rypkema, at least implicitly in this case, and another keynote speaker at the smart growth conference, Walter Kulash, senior traffic engineer of a firm in Orlando who specializes in “livable traffic” design), says in essence that adding such capacity will induce traffic, or generate more; it says that, in Louisville’s case, drivers will ultimately adapt if I-64 is a surface road through downtown — two lanes going each direction that picks up from the current River Road, like 8664 would have it. Concomitant to that is the idea, supported by Kulash and multiple studies published since the mid-1990s, that technology is changing commuting patterns, that workers’ schedules are now more flexible than strict 9-to-5s, and by virtue of that, traffic has not grown the way it was predicted to a decade ago. This philosophy jibes with current U.S. demographic trends, which show more people moving back into cities, countering in small part the sprawl of the last few decades. Think of the boom in the Highlands and along Frankfort Avenue in the last 20 years, or commuters coming to downtown from South Louisville, none of whom would have any reason to use I-64 to get downtown. It is, Allen and Stites contend, commuters from the rapidly expanding eastern portion of the city providing the multiplier effect on I-64 and Spaghetti Junction traffic, and they think it’s only a matter of time before that slows naturally. National demographic trends suggest people are moving back to cities, and simply don’t use highways to commute in and out of urban areas as much as they used to.J.C. Stites: at this summer’s Forecastle Festival. The back of his T-shirt reads, “Our way or the highway.” Photo by Cary StemleThis is happening in Louisville, due in large part to city leaders who have been pushing it for something like a decade. Yet some of the same people who promote urban living and want to bring density to downtown also subscribe to the notion that eastern sprawl should and will continue, Allen and Stites say, and the transportation strategy of the Bridges Project reflects that. It’s the same all-in kind of thinking that landed Louisville with a $2.5 billion project that, rather than finding some kind of compromise, just gave everybody everything they wanted: a new downtown bridge, a new East End bridge and a reworked Spaghetti Junction that will end up about 70 feet wider than it is now over Waterfront Park. (That is a mitigated figure; before a recent decision to remove the existing Third Street ramp, it would’ve been more than twice as wide as it is now over Waterfront Park.) Additionally, the reworked junction will grow from 10 lanes to 23 — as shown in the money shot photo that 8664’s proponents rely on to make their case graphically — although that won’t be over Waterfront  Park. It’s worth noting that comparing lanes may be misleading; at the same point, the present junction will grow from roughly 960 feet to about 1,050 feet.Yet with all that’s at stake — quite literally the future of downtown Louisville — officials still refuse to examine the merits of the 8664 concept. They say a quick analysis, done over one day in 1999, and of which no official record exists, is enough to prove that excising the portion of I-64 from the riverfront and re-routing I-64’s through traffic to Southern Indiana via a new East End bridge, is wholly unfeasible. They say if Allen and Stites are so convinced of their idea, they should fund their own study. They are currently planning to do that.Meanwhile, a November 2005 report commissioned by the Downtown Development Corporation deemed a concept eerily similar to 8664 worthy of further study. The report says it can potentially meet the goals set forth by the Bridges Project.So why won’t they study it? With a decision on the table that will decide a century or more of transportation in, through and around Louisville, why not examine every angle thoroughly?Downtowns and highwaysTyler Allen: got the idea for 8664 after visiting Portland, Ore. in 2000. Portland removed part of a highway on its waterfront in the 1970s to great economic benefit. Photo by Cary Stemle“We come from what appears to be a target demographic for the city’s leadership,” Allen says, sitting comfortably with Stites last Thursday afternoon at 8664’s sparse Market Street headquarters, part of the Gallery Hop circuit. The huge 8664 posters, which Allen’s been slinging over his shoulder from presentation to presentation for more than a year, hang framed on the stark white walls. “We’re fairly young, we have families, young children, we are businesspeople, we own businesses, started businesses —”Stites breaks in. “We’ve grown businesses, we’ve lived other places, we support and appreciate the arts and creative services and want that kind of diversity in this community.” Allen owns USA Image, a digital printing company that makes those huge “Louisville’s such-and-such” posters of famous Louisvillians hanging on the sides of buildings. Stites owns Autodemo, a Web and software development firm. Allen starts again.“We represent what they say they want. And so it’s a little hard when we make a suggestion like this for them to write off the messengers. Basically, if they write off the messengers too much, they’re turning their backs on the demographic they claim they want.” This, in a nutshell, is the odd political circumstance of 8664. So far, those who would like to see Allen and Stites shut their mouths have said so quietly, the exception being a few musty, blowhard editorialists at the daily newspaper. The message coming from the Bridges Project and its engineers is that it’s too late, that turning back to consider 8664 would effectively mean beginning the project anew — changing it as drastically as 8664 calls for would probably kill federal funding. As project manager Bart Bryant said in an interview last week, 8664 is a fresh concept that has energized a decent amount of people, but it doesn’t fit into the existing plan, by his estimation.“I know in theory what they’re trying to do,” he said. “But as an engineer, their plan is very, I don’t want to say vague, but they have not detailed the plan enough to really say what it is that it will do.” It’s worth saying that Bryant is friendly with Allen and Stites, and the three have talked numerous times about 8664 and the Bridges Project. Stites and Allen: stand before the 8664 money shot hanging in their Market Street headquarters. Photo by Cary StemleAllen says the proponents are trying to work within the project’s framework. It sounds something like a stump speech, virtually the same one often given by proponents of the Bridges Project.“We want not to kill that project,” he says. “We want to change that project for the better, because we want something to happen. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with a large project on the table that people seem to support components of, and we have done some battling about talking about where to get the resources for it. That is a forward momentum we need to maintain, but we need to make sure that the end result is the best for the future of the community.”The major issue motoring both concepts is simple: The city needs to find a way to deal with increasing traffic. There are two basic ways to do that: move traffic elsewhere or expand the system that cars already use. By the state’s traffic count, which is a snapshot rather than an average, traffic in Spaghetti Junction increased from 143,000 cars per day in 1995 to 149,000 in 2004. That’s 3 percent over nine years. Engineers had estimated on the same record that the figure would jump to 165,000 by 1998, suggesting the growth was nowhere nearly as high as forecast.Bryant said the Kennedy Bridge is currently at 110 percent of capacity, and by the time the Bridges Project wraps around 2025, it will be at 140 percent or more. He said both the new downtown bridge and the East End bridge — which will take commuters to I-265 in Southern Indiana, also an integral part of 8664 — will together relieve the pressure, much of which has to do with getting to and from Indiana. The downtown bridge is the project’s sine qua non.Conversely, the linchpin of 8664 is the East End bridge, which would help redirect I-64’s through traffic to the existing (and suburban) I-265. I-64 would reduce to surface level just before Spaghetti Junction, picking up as a four-lane boulevard (two each way), basically an extension of River Road.An aerial view of West Louisville.: The portion that looks like dry moonscape would become “Waterfront Park West” under 8664, once I-64 is removed. Photo courtesy of 8664“It is an appropriate use for the logistics industry to be on a suburban interstate infrastructure,” Allen says of shifting truck and other through traffic to Southern Indiana. By the Bridges Project’s count, 32 percent of I-64 drivers are passing through Louisville. “It is not appropriate in the middle of a historic city. All of that interstate truck traffic and things like that are one of the biggest complaints about this congestion.” The study“If they had studied it with our objectives in mind — improving downtown, improving access to and from downtown, taking away an interstate from the middle of our city, from the waterfront, we are confident they could make it work,” Stites says. “It’s a matter of having that objective in mind and working toward it that we don’t think was ever in their minds as they did the supposed study that we’ve never been provided.” Allen continues: “They also were attempting to get something done. They were putting together — this would have been at least a bump on the road to getting something done, so why in the world would they want to consider that? If you’re in the midst of compromise, the last thing you do is introduce something that you know will destabilize the compromise.”The pertinent analysis was conducted over a single day in 1999, according to John Carr, a former deputy state highway engineer and current vice president of a Lexington transportation consulting firm who also helped develop the Bridges Project for about a decade.“It was probably a day-long effort to look at something,” he said in a phone interview last week. “It wasn’t in a lot of detail, it didn’t need to be in a lot of detail. What we were trying to determine was whether it was prudent and whether it was feasible, and we came to the conclusion it was neither prudent nor feasible.” The decision was based on traffic analysis, he said, that proved to them surface roads couldn’t handle that amount of traffic. It took roughly five years to get from an environmental study of the Bridges Project to the 2003 Record of Decision, which lays out a preliminary picture of the project, now about 30 percent finished with its design phase and something like $40 million deep. It will require major funding renewals for 14 years, maybe more.Then there’s this matter: a report commissioned by the Louisville Downtown Development Corporation and delivered Nov. 22, 2005 that suggests 8664’s central tenet is not absurd at all. Called “I-64 Strategies,” it examines several alternatives to the Bridges Project that would still meet the project’s goals to improve cross-river mobility and decrease traffic congestion. The report is not a formal study but a tool for developing design concepts for better waterfront access in conjunction with the Bridges Project. Citing nine examples of cities that have removed ribbons of waterfront highway to great economic benefit, the report concludes that removing the waterfront stretch of I-64 and making it a surface road, in conjunction with rerouting the through traffic to Southern Indiana, “partially meets project goals, but further study is needed to determine the viability of this alternative.” Patti Clare, DDC’s director of project development, said Tuesday that the report suggests building a new surface road, which DDC worries would adversely affect access to the river. “Then the question would be, would that new street — would we, by creating a new surface street, are we creating another barrier? That needs to be part of an analysis.”Allen and Stites are trying to scrape together the money to conduct their own study, which they say could cost in the millions. They’ve been taking donations through Louisville Community Foundation, and have about $80,000 in the bank so far. They’ve also hired a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based firm to consult and compile an implementation strategy to conduct a study. Visions of the futureFor one reason over many, it’s worth being hopeful about something like 8664, at least as a concept or idea. Its instruction for us as a city lies in this simple yet seemingly unattainable concept: Louisville can change. We can take a risk on a large-scale solution rather than continuing to put Band-Aids on broken legs. Why not? As Walter Kulash said in Louisville last week, who says we have to expand the highway to deal with traffic congestion? Why can’t we make drivers go a different way? If demographics and major economic developments are suggesting a resurgent downtown, why not create a progressive transportation strategy to accompany it?In a Jan. 23, 2006 speech in Washington, D.C., Bruce Katz — vice president and director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, which recently completed a major study on Louisville — said this of waterfront highway removal: “Make no mistake, these are tough, contentious and sometimes costly projects, yet they are often the right thing to do and need additional support if they are to happen around the country.” The measure of a world-class city is most often taken in its downtown. There is no way to accurately say whether 86-ing I-64 from downtown will be the economic boon Allen and Stites contend it will be. Likewise, it’s also impossible to assure Louisvillians that 14 years or more of major highway and bridge construction downtown — with the end result an urban zoo even more populated by automobiles — will kill the huge momentum Louisville has right now to reinvigorate our city’s heart. With so much at stake, though, isn’t an open mind at the very least prudent? When suggesting an alternative to a $2.5 billion transportation project with so much potential for both efficiency and disaster is considered an impediment, do we not proceed then at our own peril?

8664 Bridges

By I265bridge

8664 has exposed that the "Emperor has no cloths". The I-265 East end bridge has been on the books since 1958, while the Downtown Bridge was conceived by Riverfields and the Downtown Dev. Corp in 1992 as a ploy to block the I-265 bridge. There was no thought on how a Downtown bridge would effect anything it was just part of the mulit million dollar campaign to block the real bridge.


By Novision

Louisville has done 1 thing right in this whole process. They realized they made a mistake years ago when the xways were built. You cannot travel within the Louisville city limits on 64, 71 or even 264 when there is an accident, in rain, or in snow.

Why, because they are 2 lanes and traffic backs up or comes to a complete standstill. In the morning you cannot travel downtown or head toward 71 on the Gene Snyder without gridlock. Ridiculous. Our xways have been screwed up since we built them for GE 20+ years ago.

All of our xways should be 4 lanes, and then connect to an east end bridge and the new 8664 program...

I am all for the program, but I have a few concerns and comments I might add.

First of all, quit banging on the outlying cities north or east in Louisville and say it's bad for the growth to go this way. Some of the people that live in these areas drive and work downtown or work near where they live and pump thousands if not millions of dollars in to the city at malls, restaurants etc. I think the statement should be, let the growth continue but lets also grow downtown.
Fact is, you will never get enough people to move back to downtown from these areas. These areas are vital to Louisville or any city as the people are comfortable in their subdivisions. They want a yard, a safe place for kids, good schools, etc.
Look at east end industrial parks or shopping centers, north end industrial parks and compare them to downtown. Where would you rather have your son or daughter work? The more these areas grow, the more subdivisions will go up that maybe we can keep some of the college graduates. Maybe we can one day bring good large Pharmaceutical, tech, or white collar manufacturing facilities to these areas..which in turn will help Louisville via money, and people to go downtown. UPS and Kroger can't hold this town together forever. We need more homes, places to work and higher paying jobs to grow our city.

How do you expect as the presentation says on to go from 24 choke points along the river to 8, but in turn have less traffic. They are still 2 lanes and there are going to be more cars every year.

Another problem arises when we think how well Louisville thinks towards the future. Louisville cannot even paint a bridge, you know which one, the rusty one that's about to fall over. Louisville has also decided at one time to spend 100,000 dollars on neon lights that spelled Louisville. Now they are in some junkyard. I believe neon lights make you a top city..right?

Another problem I foresee is what to name all these new roads and xways...maybe Martin Luther King expressway...oh that's already in the works isn't it? Another ridiculous sign that we live in the past and a way to hope you get the minority vote next election. Why not name it Markers Mark highway. That's neutral.

We have the arena going to be built downtown, but the courier journal has stated we better have armored golf carts to get to our cars after game time. HMMMMMMM. I would love a pro team to utilize the arena, but that probably won't happen. The only way Louisville can fill an arena would be for a tractor show, 4H club, rodeo or Motocross.

What are you going to tell all the people that live downtown along the river whether sec. 8, low income etc, when all this expansion takes place? Hey I'm all for a revitalized downtown just like SF, or Baltimore, etc. but Louisville better think from the beginning and not just slop down new 2 laned roadways.

What are you going to do with all the people downtown when there's a concert, ballgame, baseball, etc all at one time? Put guests up at the old ugly Galt house? Tell them traffic will be better in 13 years when it's all complete? You can't find rooms in town when the Hot Rodders come to town.

Anyway, the roads are a great idea but Louisville needs to think.

Think big roads because we will need them later.

Think about the community base and how they will be affected. Louisville has many cultures and ethicality but it's still African Americans and Whites...just ask our self appointed resident expert Rev. Lewis Coleman. I'm not saying name every road for an ethnic group or to appease any ethnic group by making promises. What should be done should be as neutral as possible. Concrete, steel, mortar, and that’s it.

Think about why people don't go downtown. Crime, theft, no parking, etc. It's more cozy to sit way out in the east end in the comfort of your warm home than to travel all that way in and out of traffic, risk something bad happening to your car or person, and not get food poisoning from a corn dog vendor.

Think about how many screw ups are still out there to be fixed...unpainted bridge, neon signs, hospital curve, spaghetti junc, parking, etc.

Think about why downtown isn't vital and thriving...just look at downtown cincy after their riots years ago.

Think how we travel. We all have to travel these xways if in one place it's 3 or 4 lanes doesn't help when we get to the next xway when it goes back to 2 lanes. Get in a darn helicopter at rush hour and see for yourself.

Think about the future and what Louisville will need then not just what Louisville wants or needs now. Think Big as Louisville will outgrow it.