Bipartisan group of Louisville leaders encourages removal of bridges project lawsuit

07/13/2011 11:09 AM

LOUISVILLE — With many of Louisville’s business, political and labor leaders standing together, advocacy group Kentuckians For Progress once again publicly called for the end to lawsuits threatening the Ohio River Bridges Project.

The group, formed earlier this year, has called for conservation group River Fields to drop a lawsuit against the East End bridge portion of the Louisville bridges projects through TV and billboard advertisements, claiming the lawsuit is halting progress.

River Fields claims that building the East End bridge would cause severe environmental damage to the Ohio River and to the land where the bridge is being built. It filed the lawsuit in 2009 and recently was granted a one year stay, meaning the lawsuit wouldn’t be taken up in federal court again until early 2012.

But days after the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet asked to intervene in the lawsuit in order to defeat it, Kentuckians for Progress gathered more than 75 Louisville leaders to stand together to ask the lawsuit be dropped.

The bipartisan group including many pairings that are rare. Republican state Sen. Dan Seum and Democratic state Sens. Perry Clark and Tim Shaughnessy, who often disagree in Frankfort, appeared at the event.

As did Republican state Reps. Julie Raque Adams and Bob DeWeese and Democratic state Reps. Darryl Owens and Tom Burch.

And former Republican candidates Todd Lally, who ran for Congress last year and Hal Heiner, who ran for Louisville Mayor, attended with Democrats who have worked against them.

The bipartisanship nature of the group wasn’t lost on Larry Hujo, a Louisville school board member and labor leader.

Hujo said as a school board member and labor leader, he’s faced many situations where tough change was needed, like would be needed to build the East End bridge, one-third of the Ohio River Bridges Project.

While building the bridge may displace some well-off families, that pales in comparison to thousands of families that were moved during airport expansion in Louisville, he said.

And, bottom line, Hujo said, the lawsuit is preventing the city from moving forward.

Former Republican Jefferson County Judge-Executive Rebecca Jackson, the public face of Kentuckians for Progress, echoed Hujo’s feelings.

Jackson said originally, the River Fields group was a strong conservation group, but it is allowing a few members to take the group off-track.

She said that River Field’s claim that the status quo is acceptable is wrong and that unless the group drops the lawsuit, Louisville will continue to be left behind.

-Reporting and video production by Kenny Colston

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