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Block of Fourth Street Set For Pedestrian Improvements

A federal grant will fuel an effort to bring greater pedestrian accessibility to a section of Fourth Street in downtown Louisville between Broadway and Chestnut Street.

The $1.5 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration's Transportation Alternatives Program will go toward improved sidewalks, reworked parking alignments and new striping and paving along the one-block section of Fourth Street.

New and improved sidewalks are a priority of the project, said Gov. Steve Beshear at a news conference Monday afternoon. Once completed, the new sidewalks will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, he said.

"Deterioration of pavers has created trip hazards, and abrupt changes in grade make it difficult for people who are in wheelchairs or need assistance in walking," he said.

The effort is expected to promote more pedestrian foot traffic in the area, said Rebecca Matheny, executive director of the Louisville Downtown Partnership. Although no bicycle lanes will be added to the street, the reworking of on-street parking to add spots on both sides of the street will promote slower traffic, in turn creating more favorable cycling conditions, she said.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer touted the federal grant as another mechanism government officials have to revamp this stretch of a popular downtown street.

In recent years, more than $1.5 million in city funds and more than $400,000 in state funding have been dedicated to improving the Fourth Street corridor, he said.

In 2011, city leaders unveiled a plan to return the Fourth Street corridor to a magnet for retail and shopping. By 2013, a handful of small, local businesses had moved to the strip, and city officials dedicated $500,000 in city funds to improve sidewalks along Fourth Street north of Chestnut to Muhammad Ali Boulevard.

"It's really important to provide top-notch amenities and healthy streetscapes to the businesses and residents who live, work and shop in the downtown area," Fischer said.

Further south, Kindred Healthcare is in the process of developing a six-story, 142,000-square-foot facility on Broadway next to Theater Square. The expansion of its existing headquarters will bring 500 additional workers to the Fourth Street area, the company has said.

Fischer also noted that the Kentucky International Convention Center a few blocks north on Fourth Street will undergo a major renovation, and the Omni Hotel & Residences project will be just to the east.

"When you add on the $300 million from the Omni, the $200 million at the convention center expansion, we're quickly getting over $1 billion in investments taking place in our downtown city core right now," Fischer said.

Much of that investment is public funding, including nearly half of the expected cost of the Omni project.

The plan to revamp the section of Fourth Street between Broadway and Chestnut Street is expected to take years to come to fruition. Renderings have yet to be developed. City officials will be required to work closely with state officials to facilitate the funding through the federal government for each phase of the development.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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