At $2.6 billion, the Ohio River Bridges project in Louisville, Kentucky, is the costliest in the state’s history. It includes 18 elevated lanes, two enormously expensive bridges, a mammoth raised interchange, and a $225 million tunnel under an undeveloped suburban property (“Indiana’s Big Dig“).
For years, Louisville residents J.C. Stites and Tyler Allen fought for a more humane, down-to-earth solution. Their plan — 8664 (short for “Remove I-64″) — proposed tearing down the elevated portion of the highway that stands between downtown Louisville and the Ohio River waterfront, to help integrate this mega-project into its surroundings. But it seems their fight may be over.
For a while it seemed Stites and Allen were getting somewhere. More than 11,000 people signaled support for the pair’s highway-to-boulevard proposal at 8664.org. (This short video illustrates their proposed alternative.) Though the pair built a large grassroots organization to back the highway teardown plan, enthusiasm for the 8664 project never translated to political muscle.
“They crushed us,” Allen says.
This week, on short notice, state lawmakers approved $753 million in bonding for the Ohio River Bridges project, which they hope to fund partly with tolls. The bonds were rated BBB, just barely investment grade. The project also expects to receive a $452 million federal TIFIA loan, according to Business First in Louisville.