Can Bardstown Road be fixed?

Nov 15, 2017 at 11:42 am
Bardstown Road in 2017.
Bardstown Road in 2017.

Bardstown Road is a lovable mess, isn’t it? I remember first moving to the city and being utterly bamboozled by the lane lights, unsure of when they would light up and why. Even though I live a block off Bardstown, I avoided driving it for a while. Turns out it is unique in the country as the only road with both lane lights and on-street parking, according to a recent study.

It all may be changing.

Here are some of the ideas floated during a recent public forum on the newly-launched “Bardstown Road Corridor Safety Study.”

Eliminate parking entirely. No left turns. No right turns on red. Create a ZeroBus-type transit for the corridor. Resident parking permits for side streets. Wider sidewalks. Synchronized stop lights. Landscape bumpers on sidewalks.

Make the lane lights more visible. Garages. A road diet like on Lexington Road and Grinstead Drive.

Tom Springer of engineering firm Qk4, hired for the study, said that the traffic lights on the corridor run off 1970s technology; that kind of improvement is a no-brainer.

Councilman Brandon Coan calls the study his top budget priority for District 8’s fiscal year 2018. As such, he’s shelled out $90,000 for the study — $50,000 in special funds from the district and $40,000 in additional funds.

“The goal is to come up with a list of feasible improvements,” said Coan.

The study examines four miles of Bardstown Road, from where Baxter meets Broadway to Interstate 264. The corridor sees anywhere from 20,000 to 25,000 vehicles a day. It is AAA rated for trucks up to 80,000 pounds. According to the study there have been only two fatal crashes on the corridor since 2012 and none since 2013, but in general crashes are on the rise.

It is state owned and maintained.

That last bit is important because no matter what the study turns up, there’s not much Louisville can do without the blessing (and hopefully bucks) from the state.

The team conducting this study is led by Qk4, the lead engineer for the most-recently designed sections of the Parklands of Floyd’s Fork.

When asked about why the city or state couldn’t do the work, Coan told LEO that they “don’t have the staff and resources that are big enough without involving a third party vendor.” He said that he’s happy with the cost.

Also on the team are Develop Louisville, Public Works, the director of transportation in the Mayor’s Office, state, TARC and PARC.

“This plan isn’t about moving cars,” said Springer. “This plan is about the vitality of Bardstown Road, our premier road.”

Coan said that he felt like he couldn’t wait for the state to recognize the need to study this stretch of road.

The study has a long runway. The second public meeting won’t be held until the spring of 2018 with the first improvements made in the fall.

What about bike lanes?

If you read the comments on any Louisville media posts online, you’ve learned by now that “bike lanes” is Louisville’s equivalent to “snowflakes.” Any social media post on transit inevitably is trolled by conservatives who think liberals, specifically the mayor, have ruined the city by spending money on and installing bike lanes in the city.

Trolls, rest easy for now. Coan said that he doubts that one of the solutions will be an addition of bike lanes to Bardstown Road.

What’s not really being floated?

Enforcement of laws that are already on the books, such as towing illegally-parked vehicles and ticketing unsafe driving. Coan said he doesn’t like the “stick” approach to solving this problem.

Coan launched an education campaign earlier this year targeting rush hour scofflaws who ignore the no parking signs. It was complete with a clever “Big Lebowski”-themed poster and door-to-door campaigning with business owners on Baxter and Bardstown. That campaign has wrapped up and details will be released soon, Coen said.

Still, he and many of the people who attended the public meeting agree that there’s a significant lack of understanding of vehicular, bike and pedestrian laws.

Kentucky’s drivers manual, for example, has zero mentions of zebra crossings — those striped crosswalks where cars are legally bound to yield to a pedestrian. And when was the last time you saw a bicyclist signal a turn for 50 feet before making the turn? Them’s the laws, folks.

And Traffic Code 72.035.N Limitations Of Stopping And Parking states that cars are not allowed to be parked “on each corner and all eight sides of an intersection, within 30 feet from the beginning and/or ending of any intersection, flashing beacon, stop sign, or traffic control signal located at the side of a roadway.”

Thirty feet? Is that really a thing?

I was so surprised I called Coan to double check, and we read through the code together. He too seemed surprised and agreed that it’s not something that’s enforced. He said if he had his way every intersection would be marked to show the no-parking zones.

Maybe we all need to go back to drivers’ ed.

In the meantime, expect Qk4 to be collecting data with cameras and start counting pedestrians at crosswalks to get a better sense of the pain points of Bardstown Road. You read more about the study and see the results of an online survey circulated earlier by searching for Bardstown Road on the city’s website: •