Engineer says I-75 connector could be less disruptive than improving existing roads

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJune 10, 2014 

— Making improvements to existing roads wouldn't necessarily be better than building a new four-lane connector road from Nicholasville to Interstate 75 in northern Madison County, a consulting engineer said at a public meeting Tuesday night.

The probable impacts to existing property owners — such as relocating houses — would be much greater than constructing a new road, consulting engineer Jerry Leslie of H.W. Lochner told the Citizens' Advisory Committee, a group of public officials and residents from Jessamine, Madison and Fayette counties.

There would be fewer impacts in building a new road because it could be situated to go along property lines so people wouldn't have to be moved. Making improvements to existing roads — such as Ky. 169 from Nicholasville to Richmond — would mean widening where properties on both sides of a road would be affected.

The issue was discussed Tuesday because the Citizens' Advisory Committee had sought such a review of existing roads at a previous meeting. Residents also have asked whether improving existing roads between Nicholasville and I-75 would be a better option than building a connector.

The answer heard Tuesday night is consistent with a 2008 study, which came to the same conclusion, Leslie said.

Jessamine resident Liz Hobson said people simply want rural roads to be made more safe. Leslie said "upgrading for safety" alone, though, is not within the scope of the connector project, which must also consider access to the interstate.

Meanwhile, the committee got its first look at preliminary alignments within four possible zones that might be suitable for a connector road.

In March 2013, consulting engineers identified eight such zones, or potential paths for the connector. Those were presented at public meetings in Jessamine and Madison counties the following month.

In June 2013, consulting engineers winnowed the eight zones to four.

The zones were picked based on information that balances engineering feasibility and environmental impacts.

The zones all start on the proposed but as-yet-unbuilt Eastern Bypass that would skirt around Nicholasville's east side. The routes cross the Kentucky River to terminate at Exit 95, the Boonesboro Road exit off I-75 in northern Madison County.

The zones vary in width from 500 feet to 2,000 feet. An average right-of-way for a road of that type is 300 feet.

What the Citizens' Advisory Committee saw Tuesday night were preliminary alignments within each of those four zones. These preliminary alignments or "ribbons" are subject to change, but they will be presented to the public for further comment at meetings in July or August. To see the four project zones, go to I-75connector.com and click on "Project reports" at the top of the page.

The state Transportation Cabinet said it is considering several options, including a "no build" option, for the connector road. In the meantime, consultants are completing a study that assesses socioeconomic effects and impacts on aquatic life, archaeological sites, historic sites, and air and noise quality. That study will be finished in the fall or winter and is to be presented to the public in early 2015.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, with approval of the Federal Highway Administration, will decide the final alignment after considering public comments, environmental impacts and cost. Cost estimates are not yet available.

Even if there are no delays, construction of the 13-mile connector road wouldn't start until about 2020, and the earliest it would open to traffic would be 2026.

Opponents of the road say it would ruin sensitive natural features and historical sites. (Their site is Stopi75connector.com).

Madison County Fiscal Court magistrate Roger Barger said that the road will forever change the lives of farmers whose land the road will cross.

"Anywhere you put it, you're going to disrupt somebody," Barger said.

Proponents say the connector road is needed to improve traffic safety and gain better access to I-75 for Jessamine and other Central Kentucky counties.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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