Part of a major thoroughfare into downtown Lexington — South Limestone — will be closed for a month beginning July 22, the city announced Wednesday.
The closing will be the first phase of a project that will cause significant detours and delays, but will ultimately provide a new corridor connecting the University of Kentucky and Transylvania University with downtown.
The closing beginning next week will be on South Limestone between Avenue of Champions (Euclid Avenue) and Maxwell Street, where the city will begin a comprehensive reconstruction of the street and sidewalks.
Motorists will not be able to drive through the intersection of Avenue of Champions and South Limestone during that same period.
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Northbound drivers on Nicholasville Road who want to get downtown will follow detour signs to Virginia Avenue and to South Broadway.
Westbound motorists on Avenue of Champions will turn onto Martin Luther King Boulevard to go to Main Street.
Motorists should plan on significant delays, according to a statement from the mayor's office.
There will be access on South Limestone for residents, employees of businesses along the street and for deliveries. The city is working to address parking.
Diane Bonfert with the Downtown Development Authority and George Milligan, project coordinator, walked South Limestone from Vine Street to Avenue of Champions Wednesday informing businesses of the closing.
The main concerns they heard were customer parking and that the detour might drive traffic away from the business, Bonfert said.
Signs will be erected on the detour route indicating "businesses on South Limestone are open even though the street is closed to through traffic," she said.
Work will also begin shortly on South Limestone at Vine Street, but no date has been set. "Work on South Limestone will start at either end — Avenue of Champions and Vine — and go toward the middle," said Susan Straub, the mayor's spokeswoman. That is because of sewer construction.
"With sewers you have to start at the low point and work to the middle because sewers are gravity-driven," she said.
Liza Hendley Betz, owner of Failte, a small Irish import shop at 203 South Limestone, expressed frustration that she could not get a precise date from Bonfert for when the stretch between Maxwell and High Street will be closed.
Straub said regular updates will be posted on a Web site dedicated to the construction.
The Web site, www.southlimestoneprogress.com, will go live on Monday. It will be updated every week, more often if necessary, she said.
Citizens with questions may call LexCall at 425-2255.
Work to redo Limestone is expected to take one year, but conditions and closings might change frequently, Straub said. "When you have a project of this complexity, there are going to be problems. The best we can do is communicate frequently about what we expect to happen," she said.
In a prepared statement, Mayor Jim Newberry said, "There's no easy way to get this work done."
He said it will require the patience of the entire community, especially those who live and work along South Limestone. "In the end it will be a giant step forward for our city," Newberry said.
The overall goal of the $13 million project is to support downtown and the campus corridors by encouraging students, faculty and staff from UK and, eventually from Transylvania, to come downtown.
As part of the project, the city will add street trees, rain gardens and corridor identity markers made of limestone. Utilities will be buried, and storm and sanitary sewers will be repaired or replaced.
Sidewalks will be wider to be ADA compliant, and there will be bike lanes.
The Limestone project is part of Phase 1 of the Downtown Streetscape Master Plan, which includes sidewalks and rain gardens along Vine and Main streets and in Cheapside Park.