It may not be well equipped to ease congestion or improve air quality, but light rail certainly is resilient. Funding shortfalls? Weak ridership? No problem. New lines keep coming. All this makes what happened in Louisville all the more noteworthy:
After nearly a decade of discussion and $9.9million in environmental studies, the $661million Louisville light-rail project is effectively dead.
The reason? No money and little political will.
Barry Barker, the executive director of the Transit Authority of River City, delivered that news yesterday to a stunned audience of 70 people, most of them supporters of light rail.
The project will be "packaged and preserved for sometime in the future when the economy turns around" and there is more support, Barker said during a meeting about light rail. Its environmental and preliminary engineering studies will shut down this summer, he said.
Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson, who did not attend yesterday's meeting, said in an interview afterward that although he was disappointed, "it's time for a reality check."
Current state and local budget shortfalls – coupled with the Bush administration's focus on rapid-transit buses rather than light rail – made the project ill-timed, he said.