The final phase of a two-part environmental impact study currently being done by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will answer the decades-old question of whether or not a connector road can be built between U.S. 27 and Interstate 75.
It is a question that simply won't go away and needs to be answered.
A connector from U.S. 27 to I-75 is not a new idea. Completed in 1890, a railroad and bridge over the Kentucky River was built from Frankfort to Beattyville, connecting some of the region that would be served by U.S. 27/I-75 proposed connector. Concrete pillars for the bridge can easily be seen today at the Valley View Ferry crossing.
The need for this connective transportation venue has been documented in Jessamine County comprehensive plans since the 1990s. A 2001 visioning process for Jessamine County, led by the University of Kentucky, clearly states the U.S.-27/I-75 connector as the number one transportation need for the community.
The process to determine whether a road is needed began with a feasibility study that was completed in 2008 and found the road could ease heavy traffic conditions on US-27, enhance connectivity in the region and positively impact the quality of life for the area.
The second and current study continues with a more in-depth study of environmental and cost challenges.
The need for the road has been accelerated by Jessamine County's rapid growth, which started in the 1990s.
The growth and increased traffic problems encouraged the county government, the Metropolitan Planning Organization and local residents to take a hard look at ways to ease the volume and associated safety issues.
Transportation data list an amazing 43,500 passenger vehicles currently using U.S.-27 near Brannon Crossing a day; 33,500 at the intersection of US-27 and Main Street in Nicholasville and 19,500 vehicles at the bridge over the Kentucky River at the Garrard-Jessamine county lines.
From the very beginning, the connector project has been driven by local residents who understand transportation needs. They are law officials, EMTs, school officials and others who feel real urgency to act now.
On a regional level, Barren River Area Development District and the Central Kentucky Regional Policy Group actively support the project because of its potential to enhance regional economics and quality of life issues.
As the Bluegrass region continues to grow, the population of Jessamine County is forecast to continue increasing with corresponding traffic count increases.
When completed, 15,000 passenger vehicles are expected to use the proposed connector daily. Only 10 to 15 percent of the 15,000 is expected to be truck traffic, according to the standard formula used to forecast those numbers.
Local community leaders have come together to ensure better protection and control of land use in the county, which includes the areas served by the connector.
By combining Jessamine County, Wilmore and Nicholasville's efforts, the county now has in place a cohesive, stricter Comprehensive Plan that has been thoroughly vetted, and specifically designed to address past issues and ensure future controlled growth.
State and local officials understand the concerns for the area's environment and the need to build the road and bridge with minimal impact. Due to the stringent state and federal guidelines that govern the evaluation and building process of all roadways, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is committed to ensure the road and bridge will address any concerns.
Urban and rural planners have always understood this road transcends Jessamine and Madison County issues. It is a proven fact that what is good for one county is good for surrounding counties. And when a region such as the Bluegrass flourishes, Kentucky reaps the benefit.
Improved traffic flow and connectivity would boost economic investment and job creation, making it easier for companies, workers and customers to do business.
It would enhance availability to schools and medical treatment, improve roadway safety, create an alternate route around Clays Ferry Bridge and offer more tourism opportunities.
It all adds up to a regional roadway that will simplify and improve the quality of life in Central Kentucky.
It deserves a thorough study and a final answer of whether or not it is a viable project.
About the authors: Nancy S. Stone is a member of the Jessamine County Transportation Task Force; William Neal Cassity is Jessamine County judge-executive.
At issue: Various recent news articles and commentaries about the proposed I-75 connector