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May 6, 2012

Delisting denied on Drumanard estate

Property over proposed interstate tunnel remains historic

PROSPECT, Ky. — A petition to delist the historic Drumanard Estate in the path of the proposed east-end bridge of the Ohio River Bridges Project has been denied.

Denis Frankenberger, a Louisville resident and a managing partner of Charlestown Landing, filed a petition to remove the property from the National Register of Historic places with the hope that it would allow project planners to eliminate a $255 million tunnel planned to run under the property on the Kentucky approach to the east-end bridge. The Drumanard Estate, which was recently purchased by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for $8.3 million, has been a source of controversy for the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Because of the historic designation of the estate, planners will construct a 2,000-foot tunnel, estimated to cost $255 million, under the property in order to avoid any “surface disturbance.” Other options that were studied by project planners included a cut-and-cover method of constructing a tunnel, estimated to save $82 million on the project’s cost, according to the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the bridges project, published in October. The cost of both the bored-shaft tunnel as the preferred construction method and the cut-and-cover option carry annual maintenance costs of $1.5 million.

But the preferred option for those hoping to delist the Drumanard Estate was an open cut, which would save $203 million on construction costs on the east-end approach and cost $500,000 annually in maintenance costs, according to the impact statement.

However, the open cut was not an option for project planners for several reasons. The approach options, other than the bored shaft tunnel were not examined because of the damage that would result to the Drumanard property, additional delays that would occur and expected public sentiment.

“Kentucky Transportation Cabinet expects that many members of the public, particularly in Prospect ... would perceive a proposal to consider construction of an open cut through U.S. 42 and the Drumanard Estate Historic District to be a breach of faith on an important commitment made in the 2003 record-of-decision,” according to the appendix document of the impact statement. “As a result of past experiences with the community, KYTC predicts strong public opposition if the open cut is studied again.”

Project planners have previously said that for each month the bridges plan is delayed, it will cost an additional $10 million to complete.

However, the last holdout for Frankenberger and others hoping to remove the tunnel from the project was eliminated with the affirmation of the property’s historic value. While Carol Shull, interim keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, acknowledged some errors in the listing of the Drumanard Estate as an historic property, substantively the petition did not meet any of the grounds for approval.

“We are denying your petition because the petition does not demonstrate that the Drumanard Boundary Increase should be removed from the National Register under any of the claimed grounds for removal, either procedural nor substantive,” she wrote in her response.

The “boundary increase” questioned was on the northern third of the property where the tunnel is planned.

Frankenberger questioned in his petition — the rationale for designating the property was that the landscape was designed by the Olmsted firm — that the firm ever implemented its landscape design, specifically pointing toward the northern woods.

“The north woods were not part of the Olmsted’s original plan for Drumanard is only partially correct,” according to Shull’s response letter, citing consultant Christine Amos. “The north section of the property [including the woods] was to be a pastoral backdrop for the manipulated areas near the proposed house.”

“Because the Olmsted plan indicated that the northern section of the property was to remain in woods and pasture, even this change in integrity is viewed as a minor aspect of the overall design concept,” Shull wrote. “In essence, the historic designated landscape for Drumanard is still readily evident.”

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