One of the more consequential Central Kentucky road projects in recent years is underway with construction of the East Brannon extension, a two-lane road that will bring new houses to northern Jessamine County and more traffic to Tates Creek Road.
The project will extend the existing Brannon Road east from Lauderdale Drive to Tates Creek Road in Jessamine County, just south of the Fayette County line. The extension, to be completed in June 2019, will be a little more than 2 miles long and will have bicycle lanes. The impact in the rapidly growing area will be large.
“I personally think when East Brannon goes through, it will take traffic off Nicholasville Road and also the subdivisions in Fayette County,” said Tim Cross, engineering supervisor with the Nicholasville Planning Commission.
Some residents of those southern Fayette subdivisions disagree, saying they think an East Brannon connection onto Hobbs Way will only funnel more traffic onto Forest Lake Drive and other south Fayette residential streets.
“There is no reason for them connecting that road to our neighborhood,” said Christie Abner of Forest Lake Drive.
“This is a major thoroughfare to a little, tiny neighborhood street,” said Joyce Hieger, also of Forest Lake Drive. “If there was no connection at all, we wouldn’t have a problem at all.”
The Allen Co., the road contractor building the extension for $11 million, began work in February after some delay. The road was the subject of a dispute last year in which state Rep. Russ Meyer, D-Nicholasville, said the administration of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin delayed the project as retribution against Meyer for not switching political parties. The East Brannon project had been approved by former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.
Bevin said he delayed the project because the Beshear administration had not secured the necessary portion of land before the deadline to begin work. The state was contractually obligated to pay The Allen Co. $625,000 in damages because of the delay.
The purpose of the extension is to connect U.S. 27 at the Brannon Crossing shopping center with Tates Creek Road. Jessamine Countians have long sought another east-west connection to Fayette County rather than taking U.S. 27 to Man o’ War Boulevard.
Traffic flow won’t be the only impact.
New single-family houses are already planned along the extension. Ball Homes plans to build 65 lots on 20 acres as part of a development called Ashtree, according to a preliminary subdivision plat on file with the Nicholasville Planning Commission. On another plot of 31 acres, Ball Homes plans 104 single-family homes along East Brannon.
Trinity Christian Academy, a private school in Lexington, also plans to build a new campus on 40 acres just west of the extension, and a new tennis center is under construction on the north side of Brannon. Meanwhile, a steak house restaurant might be coming to Brannon Crossing shopping center, as well as a HomeGoods decor store and another new Asian restaurant called Tekka, Cross said.
Even before the building of Brannon Crossing shopping center began in 2003, the need for an east-west connection between U.S. 27 and Tates Creek Road was forecast by planners in 2002.
The Brannon Road extension was first proposed by Jim Hughes, the developer who brought Brannon Crossing shopping center to northern Jessamine County. A 2003 northeast Jessamine transportation study said the shopping center — annexed by the city of Nicholasville in 2005 — was the impetus for extending Brannon Road east of U.S. 27, which is Nicholasville Road in Fayette and Lexington Road in Jessamine.
“It was pretty obvious that there would be a major traffic impact up there,” said former Jessamine Fiscal Court magistrate George Dean. Both sides of the county line have experienced rapid growth.
Before the idea of the extension came up, local officials had already considered widening two-lane Ashgrove Road (Ky. 1980) in Jessamine to improve safety. Officials ultimately decided it was not feasible to widen Ashgrove because it would have displaced people from the trailer parks in northeastern Jessamine, said Dean and Nancy Stone, a consultant who assists Jessamine County and Nicholasville officials on transportation projects.
The 2003 study outlined potential alignments for that extension that would connect to Tates Creek Road. The report suggested the preferred alternative should go north of the sewage treatment plant off Ashgrove Road, but the study noted that “public support … is likely to be the biggest obstacle due to its proximity to existing neighborhoods.”
Opposition did arise, as was evident earlier this year as residents of Cumberland Hill and other neighborhoods in southern Fayette County wrote on Nextdoor, a private social app in which people write about what’s happening in their communities.
A spur off the Brannon East extension will tie into Hobbs Way, a residential street off Forest Lake Drive in southern Fayette. The common concern of the Nextdoor posts was that this connection to Hobbs Way will funnel more traffic onto Forest Lake Drive.
Peter Roper, a resident of Cumberland Hill subdivison, has mixed feelings about the impact of the Hobbs Way connection.
“I like the convenience of being able to go to Brannon Crossing, but I do not like the traffic issues,” Roper said. “I feel the traffic issues are going to be a headache.”
Ray Depa, president of the Woodfield home owners association, said “there is certainly concern about any additional traffic that gets pumped onto Forest Lake Drive. But at this stage, there’s really nothing we can do about it. What are we going to do? Chain ourselves to lightposts?”
The Transportation Cabinet anticipates an increase of 90 vehicles in the peak hourly volume north of the intersection of Tates Creek Road and East Brannon, and an increase of 70 vehicles in the peak hourly volume south of that intersection.
Depa said he would like to see a traffic signal at the intersection of Tates Creek and Forest Lake Drive. (No traffic light is planned for East Brannon and Tates Creek.)
“That’s a very dangerous road,” he said. “Tates Creek at that point is a state road with a 55 mph speed limit. The traffic load coming out of Forest Lake and Kenesaw is such that a lot of people take chances, and we’re just afraid there are going to be more accidents there.”
Ryan Watts, a spokesman for the state Transportation Cabinet, said in a statement that the Hobbs Way connection with East Brannon Road “has always been a part of the project’s approved design and remains a vital component for improving connectivity and relieving congestion in the community.
“When complete, the new connection will enhance the overall safety and mobility for the network of roads and subdivisions while offering alternative methods of pedestrian and bicycle travel,” Watts said.
While he anticipates more traffic on Forest Lake Drive, Depa said “I don’t know that it’s going to be that egregious. I think people traveling on Brannon Road are probably going to want to get to Tates Creek.”
The state also plans to make improvements to Brannon Road between U.S. 27 and U.S. 68 (Harrodsburg Road). The Transportation Cabinet and its design consultants are working on the plans needed to acquire rights-of-way and relocate utilities in preparation for construction, but funding has not been secured.