CART is convinced that there will be significant social, financial, and environmental repercussions for our State and community with the Bridges Project and is preparing to file a new complaint challenging several aspects of the most recent ROD.
The inevitable sprawl encouraged by the Bridges Project will consume precious farmland, impact water supplies and require expensive investments. The East End Bridge, particularly, will siphon money out of the urban core, leaving vacant buildings, fewer jobs and fewer tax receipts for the urban government to maintain basic infrastructure and services. Think Detroit. This movement of jobs and development from the city was predicted in the initial Environmental Impact Statement.
Accessing ex-urban developments requires more fuel and more travel time, while the lower density of developments makes transit services highly unprofitable. These should be concerns for all of us. We can no longer ignore the reality of Climate Change, or the rising cost and oil and infrastructure maintenance. See the article, “Growth Ponzi Scheme” on this sight.
The financial impacts of this project will be staggering. The regional Horizon 2030 Long Term Transportation Plan from KIPDA has been progressively gutted as the price of this project has risen and our resources dwindled. In the 2003 update of the Horizon 2030 Transportation Plan all major transit projects were removed from the list to meet the fiscal restraints. In the most recent update of the Horizon 2030 Plan, additional projects have been cancelled or delayed for the same reason – to meet the financial needs of the Bridges Project.
Tolls will seriously impact personal incomes, particularly for low income populations. Decreasing transit services and jobs moving away from the urban area will impact the non-driving populations and working poor.
The actual toll amounts are undecided. The studies “suggested” they would be around $1.50, but the actual tolls won’t be determined until after construction is well underway. The same can be said for the whole project. The projected price of $2.6 billion is a very optimistic estimate. Historically, half of major highway projects are at least 25% over budget. These likely cost over-runs would further compound Kentucky’s financial difficulties for many years and raise tolls.
The FHWA has assured Kentucky that they can fund this project by borrowing against future Federal Highway Trust Fund allotments. The problem is that the FHWA doesn’t have the money to back up these promises. Since 2006 the Federal Highway Trust Fund has needed to borrow money to meet programmed needs. Rising energy prices have resulted in lower Trust Fund receipts while driving up highway maintenance costs. A major increase in Federal Fuel Taxes – up to $1 per gallon- will be required to address the shortfall.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits racial discrimination in federally funded projects. By law there should be no disproportionate impacts on racial minorities. The Bridges Project stands in serious violation of that law. Urban dwellers, the poor, elderly, and all non-driving populations will suffer significantly from this project. They already have through the loss of transit investment. The SFEIS admits there is a disproportionate impact on the poor because of tolling, but offers only suggestions rather than commitments.
The claims of job creation and economic growth are not made in the actual study, but by those who are promoting it. Actual studies predict little job growth, just job moving. Since Indiana is a “freedom to work” state, the relocated jobs will often be lower paying.
The two un-tolled bridges will have increasing traffic congestion and increasing AQ impacts. These two bridges - the Sherman Minton and the Clark Memorial, are in dense urban areas already suffering from congestion and poor air quality. Congestion will be relieved only for those who can afford the tolls. The rest of us will see increased congestion on the two un-tolled bridges.
The shift of urban jobs to Indiana will require more travel and more energy consumption. The Bridges EIS suggests there will be transit to these areas during construction, but makes no promises about providing transit after the bridges are built. Given the lack of funds in general, and the financial demands of this project, it is unlikely there will ever by viable transit to the jobs moving East. Much more likely is the further reduction of existing transit within the urban core.
So why are we building these bridges? “Improving highway connectivity” and “accessing developmental opportunities in Clark County Indiana” seem to be the remaining justifications for this project. These are poor reasons to bankrupt the Commonwealth, disinvest in the urban core, and kill transit. CART has been seeking an open discussion of the above concerns for years, but the power of GLI and the pro-bridges position of the Courier Journal has effectively stifled discussion of disparate impacts on poor communities, financial realities, energy consumption, and sprawl while marketing the benefits of questionable job growth and congestion relief..
CART is concerned that the East End Bridge route may have been chosen to benefit insiders. The A-15 route was specifically opposed by the Kentucky Division of Water who claimed it would impact the new well field recently developed by the Louisville Water Company – requiring significant mitigation at taxpayer expense and threatening the safety of our water supply. This route also requires the very expensive tunnels and an expensive secondary bridge over Harrods Creek. Why was the A-15 route chosen when the construction and maintenance costs are so much higher and it puts our water supply at risk?
CART believes that there are viable steps we need to take to address our mobility needs, social, economic, and environmental health. Interstate expansion takes us in the wrong direction. We will not achieve sustainability if we keep building the least sustainable infrastructure. We will not achieve a fair and just society if we continue to disenfranchise the growing poor and elderly populations. We will not win the battle against climate change – and it is a critical battle – if we continue to focus on auto dependent infrastructure.
CART will continue to fight the Bridges Project. We believe the two bridges plan is obsolete, unsustainable, racist, and will negatively impact the mobility and fiscal health of this region for the foreseeable future. We will fight for a new study that includes a valid transit analysis and addresses issues of financial sustainability, energy consumption, safety, Civil Rights and Environmental Justice.
You can help us pursue justice and a sustainable future for our families and our community by joining CART and making a generous tax-exempt contribution. CART is a 501c-3 organization and we welcome and need your membership as we move forward.
David Coyte, President