Newtown Pike project to include Lexington version of Golden Gate Bridge
By Delano R. Massey
A gateway â€œsignatureâ€ bridge over Town Branch will be included in the Newtown Pike extension project, Mayor Jim Newberry announced Monday.
Newberry said the bridge would be an â€œopportunity to enhance the beauty of our cityâ€ and â€œwelcome our visitors with a strong statement about community pride and history.â€ The bridge, he said, would be the gateway into the city.
The bridge will be designed by Entran, an engineering firm that has been hired to do design work for the road project. Newberry said conceptual bridge designs would be presented later.
When pressed about the design of the bridge, Newberry said he learned a long time ago â€œto not play to your weaknesses.â€
â€œThe last guy you want designing that bridge is me,â€ Newberry said to a room full of laughter. Newberry said thatâ€™s why the city has tapped Entran to design the bridge. Generally speaking, Newberry said, the bridge should reflect something that comes to mind when people think about Lexington.
He likened it to the Golden Gate Bridge, which stretches across the San Francisco Bay in San Francisco, or the Zakim Bridge, which spans the Charles River in Boston. Of course, he said, those examples are â€œon a much, much, much larger scale than what Iâ€™m talking about here.â€
â€œBut on the smaller scale, thereâ€™s no reason why we canâ€™t have something that will be a landmark for Lexington â€” particularly when you think about Newtown Pike being such a gateway to Lexington,â€ Newberry said. â€œThere will be many, many, many people whose first impressions of Lexington will be a result of coming across that bridge. And we need to make sure that that first impression is a positive one.â€
Newberry, flanked by U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, Vice Mayor Jim Gray and councilman Tom Blues, also gave an update on the plans for the Newtown Pike extension, which â€œwill take some of the traffic off busy downtown streets and provide more direct access to the interstates for south Lexington and the University of Kentucky campus.â€
The extension project has been studied since the 1960s â€” as Chandler joked, â€œlonger than Iâ€™ve been on earth.â€
In February or March, families that live in the lower Davistown neighborhood will start moving into new temporary modular homes that will be erected in the park. The families will live in the temporary homes for up to two years while their old homes are torn down.
New, permanent housing will be built for them in the neighborhood.
The reconstruction of lower Davistown â€” one of the cityâ€™s most economically depressed areas â€” is part of the massive $87 million Newtown Pike extension project. Nearly half the project money, about $42 million, will be used to buy land in lower Davistown, rebuilding the areaâ€™s infrastructure and paying for a portion of new housing that will be built there.
Ultimately, the Newtown Pike extension will stretch from West Main Street, where Newtown Pike now ends, to Broadway and, with a second prong, to South Limestone at the main entrance to the University of Kentucky, along what is now Scott Street.
Engineers are working to complete the first phase of the boulevard, from Main Street to Versailles Road, by 2010, in time for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Assuming funding is available, the second phase is to begin by 2011 and will stretch from Versailles Road to Broadway. The third phase is to begin by 2012 and will stretch from Patterson Street to Limestone. The city hopes the entire project will be finished by 2014.
In addition to the bridge and road construction, the project entails construction of a revitalized neighborhood in the area, which is rare for a federal or state road project.
A Community Land Trust will be established to ensure that current and future generations will have access to safe, affordable housing.
The Rev. Martina Ockerman of Nathaniel Mission said a committee made up of residents and members of the mayorâ€™s office, among others, has been meeting once a month for the last four years to get everyone on board. Early on, she said, there was a lot of â€œmistrustâ€ and â€œconfusion,â€ but the group eventually came to a consensus.
Because itâ€™s such a huge undertaking, and one that involves so many layers, Ockerman said this project could become a national model for combining affordable housing with a large project.
â€œPeople are watching this,â€ she said.
Reach Delano Massey at (859) 231-1455 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1455.