The process for a new connector road between Nicholasville in Jessamine County and Interstate 75 in northern Madison County has entered a new phase.
The design phase for the east-west connector over the Kentucky River has begun and will take about four years to complete, officials said Monday. An environmental-impact study, which will take about two years to complete, also has begun.
Later this week, a Web site called I-75connector.com is expected to launch to give updates about the project. People also will be able to find out about the project as a fan on Facebook or through Twitter at @I75connector. Those sites will allow the public to comment on the process.
In addition, more workshops with the public will be scheduled in the fall in Jessamine and Madison counties, said Jerry Leslie, vice president of H.W. Lochner, the engineering firm selected to do the design work.
"We're going to work with the public and property owners to understand their concerns, map that out, and minimize any impact to the surrounding community and environment," Leslie said.
The alignment for the road isn't known yet, but it is projected to go within a corridor that extends east from the as-yet-unbuilt Eastern Bypass around Nicholasville to Exit 95, the Boonesboro exit at Ky. 627, on Interstate 75.
At its widest portion, the connector-road corridor is about 2 miles wide. The corridor narrows as it extends east to Exit 95. A reworking of that exit, which includes relocation of some adjacent roads, is planned.
The corridor was the best among several studied, said Robert Nunley, branch manager of project development for the District 7 Department of Highways office in Lexington.
Residents and officials in Jessamine and Madison counties have said in previous meetings that the connector road is needed. Industries in Nicholasville and elsewhere have sought better access to I-75 rather than taking Man o' War Boulevard in Fayette County.
And Madison officials have said a new connector would be beneficial if evacuations were necessary in the wake of a major chemical leak at Blue Grass Army Depot.
The new road is expected to take traffic off Tates Creek, Nicholasville and Richmond roads in Fayette County.
Even if there are no hiccups or delays, construction on the 13-mile road wouldn't start until 2020, and the earliest it would open to traffic is 2026.
It's not clear yet whether the proposed connector will be a two-lane or a four-lane road.
"That is something we'll look at in the preliminary design," Leslie said.
There is talk that the connector road will be a toll road, although the amount of the charge isn't known.
"One of our tasks is to develop a financial plan, which will investigate all the options to finance this road, whether it's through tolling or through some sort of federal grant, or other ways," Leslie said. "We're going to look at every type of innovative financing method to see what's best."
There also is discussion about using some sort of partnership that would leverage taxpayer and private dollars to pay for the road, Leslie said. That has been discussed as a means to build the two new Kentucky-Indiana bridges across the Ohio River at Louisville.
The environmental study will assess impacts not only on the river but on historic properties and on social and cultural issues in the area. The corridor does not touch the 734-acre Raven Run Nature Sanctuary in southeastern Fayette County. But White Hall State Historic Site, the house of anti-slavery activist Cassius Clay in northern Madison County, is within the corridor boundary.
A citizens advisory committee for the design phase will have an organizational meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Jessamine County Chamber of Commerce office at 508 N. Main St. in Nicholasville. The meeting is open to the public.
The committee is composed of elected officials, property owners, and representatives from industry, the Nature Conservancy, the Kentucky River Authority and other groups interested in the road and its impacts.
Leslie said he would "be happy to meet with someone at their kitchen table" to discuss any concerns about the proposed road.
"Those are the best meetings you can have because you look them in the eye and see what their concerns are," he said.
"We want to be as transparent as possible," Nunley said.