As a resident of Downtown Louisville that enjoys interestingly long walks, I walk under a lot of different overpasses and have some time to ponder them while I do so.

The big news here is that in the next few months I-65 through Downtown, and particularly in my home neighborhood between Main and Market Streets, will be expanding from a mere six lanes into a twelve lane monstrosity. [1] This will be nearly half a downtown block wide. It will push what is an already deep cut splitting neighborhoods into a seemingly impassible divide.

I'm sure that it is probably too late to enter into a debate with the current work, as the engineering has already happened and construction has already started in several ways, but I do think a deeper dialog needs to happen on how this expanded overpass will interact with the neighborhood it lives in (and divides).

Based on what I've experienced of which overpasses I feel like hurt the city and which provide interesting flavor instead, I think the big common factor is that Waterfront Park has helped to contextualize its overpasses as brief shady spots in its park. I'd like to hope the same or similar could be accomplished (perhaps not today, but maybe not in the too distant future) with I-65 overpass, at the very least in block between Main and Market, but potentially for a longer swath of its frustrating wall through the heart of Downtown Louisville. I would like to call for, in whatever ways I can manage, some attempt to build a linear park underneath and as a part of the I-65 expansion.

Another example of an overpass that works today is the underside of the George Rogers Clark bridge [2] as it was recently renovated thanks to the Yum Center. Forgiving the fact that the underside of the bridge still has to remain a working street, the lighting and curb work go far to make this overpass feel lively and welcoming, even at night.

To compare, the existing I-65 is a space-wasting berm between Main and Market.

It already does so much to cut this block and wall it off, discouraging foot traffic across blocks, disconnecting Main and Market; Hancock and Jackson Streets. It may have a pretty mural, but it's still a physical wall.

As it widens to twelve lines we need to ask ourselves how the public space is utilized. At what will be nearly a half-block of downtown exactly, I think it is absolutely apparent that this could be put to use as an interesting linear park, connecting rather than disconnecting the neighborhoods here. Expanding such a park south along the path of I-65 over time would further add to the fabric of downtown.

Possibly something like this is already the plan, but I'm sure that the current berm/wall is the cheaper solution and probably the current engineering intent. It certainly could be open, as the side just north of Main is already open [3]. It's just not well lit or that interesting of a view, currently.

Maybe it isn't too late to have this conversation. Even if it is too late to impact the economics of whatever exactly the current plan is, we can at least highlight this as a future development and push for that future to happen sooner, rather than later. The city doesn't need half of a block disconnecting its downtown from itself. We need something at ground level to compensate for the interstates that are being expanded to serve those that don't actually care about Downtown Louisville [4]. I think something needs to be done. Preferably sooner, rather than later.

[1]I've ranted at length about how much I believe this to be a mistake, but I realize the devil's bargain the city has placed itself into here. In order to build the bridge the city actually needs (the East End I-265 bridge) we saddled our poor downtown with a Spaghetti Junction reflow it could use, but didn't entirely need need, and a bridge that likely won't be that necessary once the East End bridge is built, and we agreed to do both (at the same time!) to beat the crowd that insisted in attempting to make the combined project "too big to build". I've given up on fighting the downtown parts of the project. The East End Rich "won" and we that love Louisville's downtown will put up with our misery as best we can, because eventually we'll get what we actually need (the East End bridge).
[2]Or as we biased Louisvillians prefer to call it, the Second Street Bridge.
[3]Probably due to the way it interfaces with the city's flood wall.
[4]Both the East Enders that fought to bundle these projects and the logistics and trucking industries that are more concerned about quickly travel to Indianapolis or Nashville more than about coming, and staying, to Downtown Louisville.