State tourney fans warned about Versailles Road construction, tie-ups

kward1@herald-leader.comMarch 4, 2013 

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association Boys' Sweet Sixteen tournament rolls into Lexington this week, and attendees are being warned to take care about just what route they roll in on.

The KHSAA posted a travel advisory near the top of its instructions to basketball teams attending the event, alerting them about construction on U.S. 60.

The state is repaving Versailles Road from New Circle Road to the Blue Grass Parkway in Woodford County.

The parkway and Versailles Road are Lexington's primary connectors to much of Western Kentucky.

"Those coming from west of Lexington would be advised to consider an alternate route," the KHSAA advisory said.

Rupp Arena officials have posted a traffic alert about the construction on the arena's home page, directing motorists to the Transportation Cabinet's website, 511.ky.gov.

"It's just our effort to provide current information," said Carl Hall, Rupp's director of arena management.

Whether Sweet Sixteen attendees actually will encounter traffic snarls as a result of the Versailles Road construction remains to be seen.

Chuck Wolfe, spokesman for the state Transportation Cabinet, said that while work would continue as planned this week, two lanes of U.S. 60 would be open in both directions at all times.

Jack Kain, owner of Jack Kain Ford, which sits along U.S. 60 in Versailles, said traffic has been "just going fine."

"It should have no effect whatsoever on the tournament," he said of the construction.

What has been affected, Kain said, is his customer traffic.

He said traffic to the dealership has been down 30 percent to 40 percent since tie-ups were reported by the media soon after construction started.

Kain said he drove U.S. 60 three times Monday and "had no stoppages."

Traffic apparently has been moving well enough that speeding and reckless driving have become a concern.

"The people who are working in the construction zone have expressed some concern," said Sherelle Roberts, spokeswoman for the Lexington police.

As a result, she said, extra officers will be on Versailles Road at least through the weekend "to remind people about driving safely in the area."

She said police also would increase enforcement around Rupp Arena during the tournament, just as they would for any major event.

Downtown traffic is sure to be affected by the tournament, which runs from Wednesday through Sunday.

Hall said 12,000 to 14,000 people typically attend the weekday sessions of the Sweet Sixteen, and 21,000 to 23,000 usually come out on Saturday morning. (This year, the games formerly played in the morning will be played Saturday night because the University of Kentucky will play the University of Florida at noon Saturday in Rupp Arena. The Sweet 16 championship game will be played Sunday.)

Hall said he was told the George Strait concert last Saturday night created "gridlock" for an eight-to 10-block radius around Rupp Arena.

"Just wait until Wednesday," he said.

Karla Ward: (859) 231-3314. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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