Sunday's Courier-Journal featured an editorial titled "Bridges aren't free". The editorial's final paragraph said it all: "No one likes tolls, but no one likes other financing options, either. And the fact is you can't get a $4.1 billion project for free. Kentucky needs that project." (italics added)
What caught my attention is the fact that even though tolls are as popular as a skunk at a _______(fill in your social event of choice), the editorial board couldn't bring itself to even consider the elegant alternative to bridge tolls offered by the 8664 plan.
As most everyone knows, the Ohio River Bridges Project (ORBP) is expected to cost over four billion dollars. On the other hand, the East End Only Bridge Option To Which We First Agreed So Many Years Ago Before River Fields Extorted An Uneeded Second Bridge Into And Through The Downtown Area Of Jeffersonville Just For Spite And As A Gambit To Block The Bridge They Didn't Want In The First Place Because They Are NIMBYS (EEOBOTWWFASMYABRFEAUSBIATTDAOJJFSAAAGTBTBTDWITFPBTAN) or EEO for short, would cost just over two billion dollars. For some reason the Courier has decided to pattern its intransigence on the ORBP after Jerry Abramson's intransigence on the Arena project, which means, essentially: My Way or My Way, take your pick.
New Albany could truly gain from the 8664 plan because the elimination of the section of I-64 between Portland and I-65 would be morphed into surface streets. This alteration could tie both sides of the river along that stretch together. Some of the large population of the Portland area could find it more convenient to shop in downtown New Albany rather than going to downtown Louisville or to shopping malls in the east end. The prospect of the historic Portland neighborhood minus the hideous scar of I-64 separating it from the river, could lead to a revival of that oldest section of Louisville. That revival could lead to improvement in mass transit options which would affect both sides of the river and more closely unite us regionally.
The primary environmental benefits of 8664 would at first seem to be aesthetic, as the barrier separating people from our greatest natural feature, the river, came down. But those benefits would fall in prominence as the revivified neighborhoods returned to a more people-oriented scale. Like New Albany, the Portland section of Louisville has a wonderful inventory of historic homes and an infrastructure built with people in mind rather the car. If the leaders on our side of the river could recognize the benefit of aligning our city more closely with our near-neighbors just across the Sherman Minton bridge, they would embrace 8664 and do their part to avoid the need for bridge tolls.