Transportation development in historically redlined Louisville, KY

  • Author: Laurel Schwartz
  • Date: April 9, 2024

Louisville, KY’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Grant funds a capital project that will connect historically underserved communities with medical services and educational facilities.

Located at the intersection of I-64, I-65, and I-71, near the Falls of the Ohio River, Louisville is home to two Ford Assembly Plants, Fortune 500 companies, and internationally recognized bourbon distilleries. The United Parcel Service (UPS) is the largest employer in the metro area, with its UPS Worldport processing 2 million air packages daily. Yet even with its geographic advantages and dynamic economy, the metro area’s poverty rate is 30% higher than the national average.

In 2015, Louisville received a US Department of Transportation (USDOT) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, a precursor to the RAISE grant. Louisville used this discretionary grant to fund its first “complete streets” project, which successfully implemented a bus rapid transit service and intelligent transportation systems. This resulted in increased transit reliability and pedestrian safety. Louisville’s RAISE team plans to build on this past success by implementing its Broadway Master Plan, which will transform 10 miles bordered by over a dozen neighborhoods.

The Need

Because of its strategic river-front location, Louisville developed as a major hub for slave trafficking. It was also an important junction on the Underground Railroad, leading to the city hosting a large concentration of free Black people. But after the Civil War, “Jim Crow” regulations and city ordinances enforced racial segregation, even in the face of NAACP litigation. This was reinforced in the 1930s when Black residents were excluded from accessing federal loans to purchase homes, a practice known as red lining.

In the 1960s, Louisville ended its racial housing restrictions, in response to civil rights protests the federal Fair Housing Act. Between 1964-68, more than 14,000 White residents left Louisville’s West Side, while urban renewal projects demolished many established Black neighborhoods downtown. According to a 2017 study, life expectancy in affluent East Side Louisville neighborhoods is 12.6 years higher than in the West Side neighborhoods.

The Broadway All the Way Project corridor is lined with vacant properties, few transit amenities, and limited pedestrian lighting. There are traffic flow bottlenecks, poor air quality, and urban heat islands. Wide roads encourage high speeds, and the road segments have some of the highest crash rates in the region.

The Plan

Move Louisville, the city’s comprehensive 20-year multi-modal transportation plan, “prioritizes system preservation over roadway expansion and takes a complete streets approach to build the framework for the priority projects.” Its goal is to create a network that minimizes total vehicle miles traveled, while improving quality of life.

To do this, the complete streets project will have a multimodal layout separated by sustainable landscaping. At eye level, pedestrians will be separated from a protected bikeway that parallels a dedicated bus lane. The two lanes for thru vehicular traffic will be separated by landscaped medians.

Intelligent transportation systems, including transit signal prioritization are designed to reorient the community’s focus to creating safe, healthy streets and economic opportunity for those who need it most. In their RAISE grant application, the team cited that these road diet strategies have been found to reduce pedestrian crashes by as much as 56%, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The Broadway all the Way project will connect with Louisville’s Medical and Education District (LouMed), which employs over 16,000 employees, hosts more than 10,000 students, and had over 800,000 patient visits in 2020. The team is collaborating with workforce development programs like Kentuckiana Builds to “build a pipeline of trained construction employees and increase the number of minorities and women going into this sector.”


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