What Really Bugs Me? Hometown Traffic

Posted by OrdinaryJoe - September 14, 2011 - Features, What Bugs ME - No Comments

This past weekend, the Sherman Minton Bridge connecting New Albany, Ind., with my hometown of Louisville, Ky., was closed due to structural damage. It will take engineers at least three weeks to assess the damage, and the Sherman Minton Bridge may not reopen for another six months.

Already, driving through Louisville is an absolute nightmare because tens of thousands of cars are forced to cross the Derby City’s two remaining bridges, the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge and the John F. Kennedy Bridge (and the Clark bridge was opened way back in 1929!).  I read in The Courier-Journal today that ferry service is being re- instituted to relieve some of the traffic.

For years, Louisville has had a woefully inadequate number of bridges and has not built any since the mid-1960’s. In fact, the Quad Cities (Moline and Rock Island, Ill., and Bettendorf and Davenport, Iowa) have more bridges for vehicular traffic (four) than Louisville (three), even though the Derby City’s metropolitan population is three times larger.

Of course, Louisvillians will quickly admit more bridges are needed as quickly as possible. However,  nothing ever seems to get done. The attempt to build a bridge to connect Interstate 265 on Louisville’s east side has been stymied for years because of a NIMBY (not in my backyard) group called River Fields.  There are plans to build a new downtown bridge, but it is still on the drawing board. One can only guess when it will be built.

While Louisville seems to take forever to build a bridge, it has constructed other significant structures with little difficulty but of arguably less importance to the average person. In the past dozen years, Louisville Slugger Field (a minor league baseball stadium), Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium (a football stadium), and the KFC Yum! Center (a basketball arena) have been erected. To me, these are “nice but not necessary” because Louisville already has a basketball area (Freedom Hall) and a baseball/football stadium (Cardinal Stadium), located at the Kentucky State Fairgrounds in the southern suburbs.

True, Freedom Hall and Cardinal Stadium are no longer state-of-the-art, but they successfully handle huge crowds during the Kentucky State Fair, the North American Livestock Exposition,  and the National Farm Machinery Show. However, Louisville has followed the big city craze for the past 20 or 30 years of building downtown sports arenas to especially attract tourists staying in luxury hotels, the wealthy, and the Yuppies living in ritzy condos and apartments who can afford to purchase skyboxes and premium tickets.  For example, my niece attended a concert this past weekend at the KFC Yum! Center that would have cost her $300 if she did not get in for free. Personally, I never would spend $300 for a ticket for any concert, even if I was the main attraction and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig von Beethoven were my backup musicians.

Some of the projects like Waterfront Park have been extremely successful. But a drab pedestrian mall was built in the 197o’s and along came the Louisville Galleria shopping mall in the 1980’s, which was a pathetic joke compared to other big city downtown shopping centers like Water Tower Place in Chicago and Circle City Mall in Indianapolis. Eventually, Louisville’s Galleria was replaced by Fourth Street Live!

An ugly water fountain in the middle of the Ohio River, which was constantly malfunctioning, was removed in 2001 and sold for scrap. And an attempt to erect a downtown Louisville sign like the Hollywood sign in southern California came to a screeching halt due to the public’s outcry against it. Actually, I thought it might had been a big tourist attraction because people do like to see tacky things like Carhenge in Nebraska and Madame Tussad’s Wax Museum in London and Las Vegas.

Whenever I see shiny new stadiums and downtown attractions in Louisville being built primarily for the hoity-toity crowd with little controversy but nothing is done to build a bridge or two to relieve traffic congestion except having architects show off fancy drawings to civic leaders, I do get buggier than a billion mosquitoes at a convention. I am a person who abhors traffic. I think it is no fun creeping along an interstate with honking cars and trucks bigger than asteroids.

I ultimately want to drive hassle-free as quickly as possible. After all, wasn’t the interstate highway system created just for that purpose?

Joe’s Maybe Memorable Quote of the Day

“The only jam I hate is a traffic jam.”

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