The Herald-Leader's fine Feb.3 article "Interstates to Nowhere," told the tales of two highways that are more a product of magical thinking than of necessity. Millions of dollars continue to be wasted on snippets of Interstates 66 and 69 that will go nowhere because other states have abandoned the projects.
We in Jessamine County know all about such roads. Here, we are haunted by, and money continues to be spent on, the Vampire Road, also known as the Interstate 75 connector, which, if built, would link U.S. 27 with I-75. Citizens drive a stake into the heart of the cursed highway, and local officials delight in removing the stake and returning the beast to life.
Our politicians and Chamber of Commerce members act as if they are sorcerers crouched over a cauldron, stirring the potion they think will cure a stagnant economy. They chant, "Give us a four-lane Vampire Road; it will be a magic highway and bring us milk and honey. We'll even settle for a two-lane Vampire Road if we have to. And we need a bridge to ford the Kentucky River to attach our Vampire Road to I-75. Igor, bring us the last ingredient, hundreds of millions of dollars, so that we may complete the magic elixir."
Alas, even though Igor searched the countryside high and low, hundreds of millions of dollars were nowhere to be found. "Eureka!" said a sorcerer. "We'll make it a troll road — oops — I mean a toll road, and charge the knaves to traverse our magic highway."
And so the politicians and sorcerers held public meetings in which they asked the citizens to drink from the cauldron so that they too would believe in the magic highway.
The citizens sniffed the angry-looking potion and said, "No, thanks, this is the same old snake oil you've tried on us before. We already have four-lane highways leading to interstates. They bring not riches but cheap baubles and trinkets and junk food taverns."
"But this is no ordinary road," said the politicians and sorcerers. "This is a magic road with a magic bridge."
The citizens did not believe the politicians and sorcerers. "You cannot maintain the roads we have, and yet you want more?"
Then the sorcerers conjured up a new rationale. "We must build the magic highway and magic bridge in case evil knights from faraway realms sabotage our existing roads and bridges."
"Why that is preposterous," said a citizen. "You will bankrupt us multiplying roads and bridges throughout the land with the intent of preventing a calamity the likes of which may never occur. It is akin to building giant walls in the hopes of turning aside a terrible wind."
"And in doing so," said another citizen, "you will lay waste to our farmland and beautiful gorges, streams and wildlife. That is more important to us than your magic highway."
The politicians and sorcerers looked at the citizens with dumbfounded expressions. "You don't understand," said a sorcerer. "This is a magic highway that can do magical things." The sorcerer held out a cup and said, "Here, take a drink and you will see."
"Nay," said a citizen. "Your potion is guaranteed to cause us much dizziness and frightful headaches. Why don't you look to the Kingdom of Danville in Boyle County? They are a prosperous people with much commerce."
"Yea," said another citizen. "Twice, candidates have come from far away to the Kingdom of Danville to debate whom is most qualified to lead our country. They traveled not on a four-lane highway. Maybe it is Danville that possesses the true magic potion. Maybe if you ask nicely, they will share the recipe of their success."
"You think too much," said a politician. "Take a drink and your thoughts will not trouble you."
"It is you who our thoughts trouble, not us," said the citizens. "Perhaps the Kingdom of Danville has been blessed with prosperity because their politicians and sorcerers heeded the sage advice of the Great Sorcerer Einstein, who said, 'Imagination is more important than knowledge.'"
The politicians and sorcerers just shook their heads and said, "Who needs imagination when all you need is a magic highway?"
Henry Riekert of Nicholasville is a former Herald-Leader contributing columnist.