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Take a Moment to Appreciate the Absolute Enormity of This Interchange

12:03 PM EDT on April 28, 2016

Louisville's new "Ohio River Bridges" Interchange, right between downtown and the waterfront. Photo: Ohio River Bridges project
Louisville's new and expanded "Spaghetti Junction," right between downtown and the waterfront. Photo: The Ohio River Bridges Project
Louisville's new "Ohio River Bridges" Interchange, right between downtown and the waterfront. Photo: Ohio River Bridges project

Every once in a while you have to step back and gape at the sheer scale of the highway interchanges America has built smack in the middle of our cities.

Branden Klayko at Broken Sidewalk is taking a moment to do just that with Louisville's Spaghetti Junction, between downtown and the waterfront. This giant interchange is being expanded as part of the $2.6 billion Ohio River Bridges Project, after wealthy suburban property owners and Kentucky's highway industrial complex squashed a grassroots effort to reclaim the Louisville waterfront from cars.

Klayko says a whole city neighborhood could just about fit inside the footprint of this one interchange:

When you’re zooming through Spaghetti Junction for most of the day when there’s no traffic, it might seem like the tangle of highway ramps isn’t really that big. Or if you’re stuck in construction traffic, it might seem like it never ends. Speed has a way of distorting our sense of distance.

The Downtown Crossing segment of the Ohio River Bridges Project (ORBP) recently shared these aerial views of the junction taken this spring by HDR Engineering, and it’s apparent you could fit a large chunk of Downtown Louisville within the bounds of the highway.

For instance, Spaghetti Junction would stretch from Ninth Street to Floyd Street and from Main Street to Liberty if laid across the grid east to west. Placing it north to south would span from Main Street to past York Street. That’s a long ways.

By backing this project instead of the more humane "8664" option, the region's political leaders made their priorities clear: speeding commuters from the suburbs matters more than nurturing a strong downtown. Now this colossus will shape the future of Louisville for a very long time.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports that DDOT chief Leif Dormsjo has taken the Federal Transit Administration to task over how it regulates safety on the Washington Metro and other transit systems. Bike Portland explains why voters should support a 10-cent local gas tax. And Market Urbanism considers how school choice, or lack thereof, might affect development patterns.

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