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Main Street closing likely to further clog downtown Lexington

Getting into and out of downtown Lexington is about to get more frustrating starting Oct. 1. That's when West Main Street will close from Newtown Pike to Buchanan Street, shutting down an east-west artery into the city for two weeks.

Combine that with the blocked southerly entrance that the yearlong redo of a quarter-mile of South Limestone is doling out daily and it's likely the only people who are going to be happy are those who work from home.

Curtis Marion delivers food for Jimmy John's on East Main Street, and he's expecting to double his delivery time if another main artery near downtown is closed and more traffic is shifted around all the one-way streets in the center city.

"I'd say it will take a good 45 minutes," says Marion, "just to make a delivery down the street."

A state transportation department representative said Wednesday that drivers will be directed to take South Forbes Road to Manchester Street to Jefferson Street and back to Main Street, ending at Rupp Arena. Detour signs will be in place.

That seemed like a complicating factor to some already dodging closed roads that hide dangers like the new 10- by 15-foot hole at the intersection of Maxwell Street and South Limestone.

Mike Johnson, a financial adviser for Dupree Financial Group on Main Street, said he's always had a route that avoided the main roads but says he knows those around the University of Kentucky were struggling even before the new road blocks go up near Rupp.

On Thursday, beginning at 3:30 p.m., some South Limestone leaders have invited city council members on a neighborhood walk-around, planning to introduce them to store owners who are deeply troubled by the 280-day timeline remaining for the work to be completed there.

"The best way they can help us," says Joe Graviss, who owns the McDonald's on South Limestone, "is to get the project over. There is no real reason they can't speed it up. They could get it done in 28 days instead of 280."

Graviss suggests that the city contractors put in multiple shifts, even if city ordinances have to be rewritten. Some merchants, he says, don't have 280 days of solvency left.

Project manager George Milligan says the work — which includes removing antiquated sewer lines, laying of sanitary sewer, installation of underground utility lines, removal of above-ground line, replacement of sidewalks in the midst of a college campus and a hospital grounds — is multi-layered, complex, dangerous and simply isn't feasible to accomplish in a tighter timetable.

"Portions of the road we haven't even looked under yet. We're finding all kinds of things under it. Old cisterns from old firehouses, railroad ties, brick paving. There's a reason they call it Limestone Street," said Milligan. "The only thing we haven't found under there is Jimmy Hoffa."

"Ultimately, it's about the customers," says Graviss. "It's human nature that they don't want to get near congested traffic zones if they don't have to. This is killing us, and it's killing downtown. We want to show the council that even blocks away from the construction, there's less business being done. The truth is, the closer you get to Vine Street, the greater the devastation."

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