The following comments were developed as a response to a questionnaire on needs for the I-64 and I-71 inside the Watterson Expressway
Transportation investment is such a major expense that it should not be undertaken without attempting to address as many of our problems as possible. The fact that transportation is now the #1 emitter of CO2 in this country suggests that solutions well beyond the historic FHWA toolbox be considered here. Indeed, the lines between FHWA and FTA need to be dissolved so that the efficiencies and Environmental Justice aspects of transit systems get serious consideration in all transportation investments.
The narrow mind set and limited toolbox of FHWA cannot encourage the changes necessary to address the challenges of this century.
Analysis of short segments of interstates, as is being done in this instance, prevents the inclusion of the alternatives that could actually create a long term solution to the problems. While lip service to Environmental Justice and Climate concerns is given, it is impossible to address these issues absent a willingness to consider alternatives across the wider system – at the very least from Lexington to Louisville to Carrolton, since commuting across this region is the source of the rush hour only congestion. Congestion in this case should be seen as an incentive to change behavior toward more sustainable alternatives. We just need to provide the alternatives. In the late 1980’s and 1990’s planners were focused on the interaction of Land Use, Transportation, and Air Quality, or “LUTRAC”, This resulted in some of the most successful and environmentally just transportation developments since the horse and buggy. Portland has been quite successful in addressing their considerable growth using the wider toolbox with a broader philosophy.
There should also be a discussion of the financial condition of the Federal Highway Trust Fund which funds this project and the long term maintenance of any improvements. Even before Covid 19 there were serious shortfalls in the Federal Highway Trust Fund and a slowdown in annual VMT growth illustrated by FHWA studies.
The reductions in travel, said Jim Tymon, executive director of AASHTO, “is really going to take cash out of the hands of state DOTs.” The pandemic, analysts say, compound funding problems that have existed for years.
“The trust fund was broken already — there wasn’t enough revenue going in for all the spending,” said Kyle Pomerleau, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “Now, there’s going to be an even further decline in revenue driven by a huge reduction in economic activity.” (1)
New capacity is not justified at this time. All Cost and Benefit analysis should include the environmental and financial impacts of Climate Change, including the cost of our dependency on foreign oil and the impacts of domestic petroleum production from fracking and deep water drilling. Smaller and more efficient vehicles should also be recognized for their role in reducing emissions and lessoning highway wear and tear. Policies that address these concerns are totally lacking and need to be developed if our transportation system is to be sustainable and climate challenges are to be met.
There is no justification to increasing capacity on I-64 or I -71. Doing so is expensive, avoids more sustainable alternatives, and may not be needed as more of the workforce works from home and more young people shun driving altogether. Continuing historic FHWA construction policies will speed the demise of our highway system, and/or result in dramatic increases in fuel taxes. Let’s focus on keeping what we have in good condition while developing sustainable alternatives.
Regarding the road sections under discussion, I can suggest one simple and inexpensive modification that can be made to the West bound exit ramp of 1-64 at Grinstead Drive which would greatly improve safety. I use I-64 frequently, rush hour and at other times. Currently there is a single lane of traffic coming off of I-64 after the tunnel. At rush hour this ramp is often backed up onto the interstate creating a very dangerous situation for those coming through the tunnel in the right lane. Capacity on the ramp could be dramatically increased by having the exit widen immediately to two lanes so that those turning right at the bottom of the ramp can move to the right lane immediately rather than being stuck in the single lane, when there is plenty of room in the right lane further down.
Thank you for your attention.
David Coyte, President
Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation.
203 N. Clifton Ave., Suite B
Louisville, KY 40206
1)www.rollcall.com “Highway Funds Shortfall Deepened by Plunge in Gas Tax”
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