As in LA, Lexington's 'Carmegeddon' fails to materialize

harrodsburg detour areas see congestion but no major issues

lblackford@herald-leader.comAugust 14, 2011 

The good thing about the 58-hour Harrodsburg Road shutdown this weekend was that all the warnings helped people avoid the area and find alternate routes.

The bad thing about the shutdown of Harrodsburg Road this weekend is that people found all those alternate routes, making them not so alternate and just plain crowded instead. The traffic on Clays Mill Road, for example, looked more like a weekday at 5 p.m. than a Saturday afternoon, several people said.

"It's been pretty bad. It's been backed up pretty much all morning," said Rachel Chancellor, an employee at Bluegrass Bakery on Clays Mill Road. "All of our customers have been complaining about it."

Like all traffic, it depended on where you were when. Nicholasville Road's traffic was congested but pretty normal for a Saturday, said Dustin Hildenbrandt at Jeff's Car Wash.

"I would think it would have been worse, given what's going on," he said.

"What's going on" is trying to make one of Lexington's busiest and most dangerous intersections safer and less congested.

The new Harrodsburg road interchange at New Circle Road will feature Kentucky's first double crossover diamond pattern, in which motorists cross over to drive on the left side of the road so they don't have to cross in front of oncoming traffic when making left turns.

Construction has been going on for several months, but the final work needed zero traffic, so the road was closed at 7 p.m. Friday.

The work is on schedule, so the road should reopen as planned at 5 a.m. Monday.

"It's going very well," said Tony McGaha, the Lexington section supervisor for the state Transportation Department, which is overseeing the construction.

Underneath the New Circle overpass, workers laid asphalt and poured concrete medians all Friday night; by Saturday morning, the lights were installed, and workers were stenciling arrows with white paint.

McGaha said there was almost no traffic Friday night, apparently because so many people had heard about the shutdown.

He said the situation reminded him a little bit of the predicted "Carmegeddon," when the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles was shut down. Thanks to motorists avoiding the area, there were no major traffic jams.

McGaha said Saturday evening's storms should not delay the work. He said the crews had planned for the likelihood of some rain late Saturday.

Sunday is predicted to be mostly clear, McGaha said, so work can continue practically non-stop.

The work will still continue past Monday, including another car lane for a total of three and a bike lane.

"We knew about it, so we avoided it," said Matt Saxon, who lives in Beaumont but made an early trip to the downtown farmers market before heading to Liquor Barn in Beaumont. Saxon took Clays Mill as an alternate route, which wasn't too crowded early in the morning. He then took Man o' War Boulevard to Harrodsburg Road, coming north up to Beaumont. The Harrodsburg Road entrance to Beaumont had two lanes open.

"I was maybe delayed by 10 to 15 minutes," he said. "If this all pays off it will be worth it."

Other alternate routes include Versailles and Nicholasville roads to Man o' War.

Back in Beaumont, folks gathered at the small farmers market in front of Azur Restaurant.

"It's been somewhat slower today," said Sara Duncan of Duncan Farm Rabbits, who drove in from Nelson County to sell her products. "But we're a newer market, so it's hard to tell."

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