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Barry Zalph, PhD, PE

Mayor Greg Fischer
Mayor, Louisville Metro
527 W. Jefferson St., 4th Floor
Louisville, KY 40202

March 8, 2012

Dear Mayor Fischer,

Thank you for your continuing support for the lower Brownsboro Road (US 42) improvement project that will use a "road diet" to reduce the road from four lanes to three and provide a safe sidewalk on the north side of the street. Pedestrians in the Clifton and Clifton Heights neighborhoods, including visually impaired pedestrians and users of wheelchairs, have sought a sidewalk along this stretch of Brownsboro Road for at least 12 years. The planned road diet will improve the neighborhood for residents, businesses, and even for through-travelers on US 42.

Over the past several years, engineers and planners from Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Louisville Metro Departments of Public Works and Planning & Design Services have considered several options for meeting the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists as well as motor vehicle users on lower Brownsboro Road. They met with concerned citizens many times to hear concerns and discuss possibilities. Based on the experiences of dozens of other US cities, they considered carefully whether a road diet would work well on lower Brownsboro Road. They found that the traffic volume and turning-vehicle counts at each of the affected intersections fit within the range in which a three-lane roadway section (with two through lanes and a center turning lane)functions well. Experience with hundreds of similar road diets in dozens of communities indicates that this change will reduce crashes and greatly improve the safety and convenience of the road for pedestrians, without harming the road¹s ability to meet the needs of motorists. The road diet will increase the efficiency of the public space, allowing the same amount of space to serve the public better. It does this at vastly lower cost than any other means of providing safe pedestrian access to the area. The Louisville and Kentucky agencies did their jobs well in screening options and choosing one that best meets the community's multiple needs.

The fears of increased traffic congestion and decreased access to local businesses are understandable but not well informed. Engineering analysis, using methods well-proven in many other road diets across the nation, has shown that the planned change will not harm the ability of Brownsboro Road to handle motor vehicle traffic. The local business climate will improve as nonmotorists as well as motorists have access to shops and restaurants. I urge worried US 42 business owners to consider Frankfort Avenue (US 60) a few blocks away. Over the past 20 years, the city has invested in making Frankfort Avenue safer and more  attractive for pedestrians. Traffic congestion on Frankfort Avenue (only one traffic lane in each direction) has not decreased during that time. Nonetheless, business has boomed. The pedestrian amenities make Frankfort Avenue a place where people feel comfortable walking, running, or lingering, encouraging us to visit businesses along the way. The popular FAT Friday Trolley Hop would be impossible if not for the sidewalks and streetscape features that make Frankfort Avenue good for pedestrians. As has been shown in city after city, streets with lively pedestrian activity experience better retail success and higher property values.

Change, especially to something unfamiliar, often feels threatening. The predictable reactions against the lower Brownsboro Road project demonstrate what 2002 Nobel economics laureate Daniel Kahneman and his colleague Amos Tversky called "loss aversion." They and later researchers proved that people generally undervalue potential gains and overvalue potential losses. Our fear of losing something often keeps us from embracing a change for the better, systematically leading to poor choices. I urge you to trust the patient, diligent analysis that led to the selection of a road diet for lower Brownsboro Road. All stakeholders, including those currently opposing the project, will benefit from this change.


Barry Zalph, PhD, PE
128 McCready Ave.
Louisville, KY 40206-2707