Plans to renovate county-wide Preston corridor in the works
City and state agencies are looking to update a major Louisville road that stretches from as far north as Louisville Slugger Field near the Ohio River to the southern edge of the county line.
The Preston corridor consists of Preston Street and Preston Highway and runs over 12 miles in Jefferson County.
Officials plan to transform the corridor to improve accessibility and safety for all kinds of travelers. They’ve been seeking community comment on desired changes, and last month showed off new ideas at public engagement events.
The potential updates include adding rapid transit through designated TARC bus lanes that would speed up service. They also feature creating more sidewalks and improving intersections.
But changes wouldn’t be uniform throughout the corridor. Planners working on the project have divided the road into seven sections, with changes mostly targeted to individual sections.
For instance, in the southmost section, where the Preston-focused TARC route 28 doesn’t operate, bike lanes are being considered only on possible sidewalks. On-road Traditional bike lanes could also be added along the rest of the corridor.
Michael King, director of Louisville Metro’s Office of Advancing Planning and Sustainability, said the idea is to meet communities’ different needs.
“We want to make sure it's not going to be a one-size-fits-all approach,” King said.
His office is leading the project and working alongside partners including the city’s Department of Public Works, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and TARC. King said he hopes they’ll have a final plan ready by around late fall.
While the Commonwealth owns the corridor, King said both the city and state would be working together to implement future changes.
He said it was difficult to come up with an exact timetable for the rest of the project, but expects Louisville to move within the next five years in order to secure federal funding from the Congressional infrastructure bill passed last November.
Preston can be a dangerous corridor. City data shows there have been about 200 crashes causing serious injury or death there from 2014 through this March. That’s the third-highest number of any county roadway, after the Dixie and Bardstown corridors.
Jennifer Pangborn is a planner with the engineering firm WSP USA, which is working on the project. She said the city will look to secure some of the $5 billion offered by the Safe Streets for All program established by that law.
That money is meant for projects aiming to improve roadway safety, which she said community members identified as a top priority.
“People want a safer corridor. They've seen crashes, they've had loved ones involved in crashes, they've known people that have actually died on the corridor in some cases,” she said.
She added that planners received significant feedback, through community surveys and in-person conversations, to improve pedestrians’ experiences along the road.
“We've really heard from most people that they want to be able to walk more places along the corridor, and that it's not walkable now. Or even where there are sidewalks, that they're not really safe sidewalks,” Pangborn said.
Some input came at a public engagement pop-up event in late June, at the Lynnview Shopping Center. Project representatives spoke with community members about Preston improvement ideas and presented posters detailing potential changes.
Pangborn and King were at the event, as were Tracy and John Billing, a married couple who live in the Schnitzelburg neighborhood. The Billings were most concerned about the safety of the side-by-side intersections where Eastern Parkway crosses Preston and Shelby streets.
“We see a lot of accidents. We see challenging situations for pedestrians. Every time we kind of travel through it, we think, ‘This could be better for everybody who's living around here,’” Tracy said.
The project’s planners are looking into how the availability of rapid transit could impact development around Preston. They created concepts for three locations along the road, including the intersections the couple were worried about.
The concepts are strictly in the idea phase. One suggests converting parts of Eastern and Shelby into car-free streets. The other outlines removing parts of Shelby and eliminating its intersection with Eastern altogether.
Tracy said she preferred the latter concept but liked both. John said he supports removing cars from parts of Shelby.
“I think it's confusing the way it is and causes safety issues, as well as frustration of people,” he said.
The city first eyed Preston for improvements in 2016 as part of a 20-year transportation plan. The plan’s report laid out its potential to offer more efficient bus transit through structural changes.
In addition, it said the corridor lacked safe major road crossings and had gaps in sidewalk access. It also argued the threat of high speeds made potential crashes in pedestrian-heavy areas more unsafe.