lawsuit to stop bridge demolition
want to preserve the
one-lane Harrods Creek span
Helen E. McKinney
PROSPECT, Ky. (October 2008) River Creek Homeowners
Association has joined an effort with three other community groups and
River Fields Inc. in a federal lawsuit to preserve the safety of River
Road by maintaining the Harrods Creek Bridge as a one-lane structure.
River Fields, a bi-state citizens group, is the largest and oldest river
conservancy along the 981-mile Ohio River.
photo by Don Ward
Harrod's Creek one-lane bridge
has become a source of controversy.
We want to keep what weve got and naturally
strengthen it, said Bill Reisert, III. Reisert is part of the
River Creek Homeowners Association, a community group that has pledged
its support in keeping the bridge intact.
In May 2008, River Fields filed suit against the Federal Highway Administration
and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, challenging the $2.5 million
proposed widening plan of River Roads historic bridge into two
lanes. Complaints have arisen over the safety of a one-lane bridge versus
preserving its historical integrity.
The lawsuit was filed under Section 4(f) of the Federal Transportation
Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. In passing Section 4(f),
Congress directed the FHA to give paramount consideration
to the preservation of historic properties and other Section 4(f) protected
resources in planning for federally funded transportation projects.
River Fields members say this policy was not carried out because an
important and reasonable preservation alternative was ignored,
Congress adopted Section 4(f) in the mid-1960s to reduce the demolition
of historic properties by the FHA for highways and roads.
River Fields plan calls for resurfacing the circa 1916 bridge,
fixing the guard rails and placing better signage along the road. The
group says it would be less expensive, safer and require less time to
make the repairs.
River Fields believes the bridge IS safe based on accident data,
said Kathy Melvin, a River Fields spokesperson. Widening the bridge
encourages drivers to speed and will cause more accidents. A one-lane
bridge forces drivers to slow down.
Reisert believes the bridge is essential to the identity of the area.
Its been there a long time, he said. And it
Safety is a major issue with the projected widening of the bridge because
many, like Reisert, believe an increase in traffic will occur. In
essence, were very much in favor of maintaining and retaining
the bridge, he said.
The River Creek Homeowners Association is a non-profit organization
serving as a forum and voice for people who own one of the 34 lots in
the nearby River Creek Estates subdivision.
The bridge is more safe now than if a four-lane
bridge were to be built, said Jim Butt, president of the Harrods
Creek Boat Owners Association. River Fields position is
our position, he said.
Butt said there are 284 boat slips on Harrods Creek that would
be impacted by this project. Members of the association frequently use
the one-lane bridge. Construction of the bridge will interfere
with our members travel, impede their access to boat slips and
diminish their boating enjoyment.
A second closely related issue surrounding the bridge involves preserving
its character. We know work has to be done, said Reisert.
But the aesthetic beauty of the bridge is priceless.
The bridge is an important part of the River Road Scenic byway that
is used and enjoyed by the public, said Melvin. River Fields goal
is to preserve this treasure.
In 1999, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Scenic
Byway, which includes the Harrods Creek Bridge, as one of the
11 most endangered historic sites nationwide.
River Road, from Zorn Avenue to U.S. 42 is Louisville Metros only
state-designated Scenic Byway. A $350,000 National Scenic Byway Grant,
co-authored by River Fields and Louisville Metro, was awarded in 2006
to protect and preserve this scenic and recreational road for future
The grant is underwriting the development of a corridor management
plan from Zorn Ave. to U.S. 42 to meet federal requirements which include
the 14 point criteria created by the Federal Highway Administration.
said Melvin. There will be an extensive public process that will
be announced in several months.
Widening the Harrods Creek Bridge would have a drastic impact
on the area, said Butt. He has traveled the bridge as many as five times
a day for the past 20 years.
In addition to being president of the Harrods Creek Boat Owners
Association, Butt is a member of River Fields. Our feelings parallel
each other, he said.
The association is a non-profit formed in 1972. Its purpose is to preserve
and protect the Ohio River, Harrods Creek and surrounding areas.
Widening the bridge would change the entire complexion of the
area, he said.
River Fields has received more support than expected, said Melvin. Our
goal for the lawsuit is for the court to send the matter back to the
two agencies to define and evaluate the negative impacts to the bridge
and choose the safer, more effective, one-lane bridge repair option.
The next step in this lawsuit would require the defendants filing an
answer to River Fields complaint, said Melvin. OPEN Louisville,
a citizens group that seeks to preserve the historical, physical and
cultural heritage essential to the identity of Louisville, has become
another co-plaintiff in this case. The final co-plaintiff is the Wolf
Pen Branch Historic Preservation Association, a nonprofit created to
preserve, maintain, protect and enhance the character of the rural residential
areas of Jefferson County, including its scenic corridors and byways.
Alice Gunnison, president of the Wolf Pen Branch Historic Preservation
Association, said of the one-lane bridge, We think its rural,
historic, and we want to see it maintained.
She said a focal point such as the bridge would be the draw of
any city. There is historical character attached to it. Wed like
to keep some charm in Louisville.
For more information about River Fields Inc.,
Back to October 2008