Woodford County

Public comments largely oppose Versailles bypass

Arrell Thompson, a consultant for the Burgess & Niple engineering firm, spoke Thursday to members of the citizens advisory committee looking into a proposed bypass on the west side of Versailles.
Arrell Thompson, a consultant for the Burgess & Niple engineering firm, spoke Thursday to members of the citizens advisory committee looking into a proposed bypass on the west side of Versailles. Lexington Herald-Leader

Seventy-five percent of public comments about a proposed bypass around the west side of Versailles said the road shouldn’t be built, a consulting engineer told a citizens advisory committee Thursday night.

Arrell Thompson, consultant for the Burgess & Niple engineering firm, said 381 comments favored a “no build” option, while 127 were divided among three possible routes. The public comments were submitted on paper at an Oct. 27 meeting in Versailles and online after that meeting.

Rob Sprague, project engineer for the state Department of Highways, said he was confident that 75 percent “is not representative of the community.” But he said he didn’t know what a more accurate percentage would be.

Former state Rep. Joe Barrows of Versailles, whose mother owns property that would be divided by one alternate route, said the numbers might be interpreted as “only 300” people who didn’t want the road in a county of nearly 25,000 people.

The road, formally called the Northwest Versailles Mobility Corridor, would extend Falling Springs Boulevard around the west side of Versailles to U.S. 60 north of town.

Of the public comments that expressed support for one of the three possible routes, 62 percent supported alternative B; 20 percent supported alternative C; and 18 percent supported alternative A.

All three options curve west of the Osram Sylvania plant and then tie into U.S. 60 north of town. Alternative B, which also was recommended by the committee Thursday, ties into U.S. 60 at U.S. 62.

The other alternatives would terminate at different points along U.S. 60. Alternative terminates north of the U.S. 62 intersection; alternative A would be south of that intersection.

Proponents say the bypass is needed to alleviate traffic congestion in downtown Versailles. Opponents say the road will be a waste of money and will funnel more big trucks onto two-lane U.S. 62 and into Midway.

“I’m seriously worried” about the extra traffic on U.S. 62, said Libby Jones of Midway, the wife of former Gov. Brereton Jones.

In a survey released in July by Woodford Forward, an organization that promotes the highest and best use of urban land and the agricultural use of farmland, only 19 percent of respondents listed completion of the road as a high priority, and 29 percent ranked it as a low priority. That poll was conducted by The Matrix Group, a Lexington market research firm.

The Versailles City Council voted 3-2 on a 2013 resolution supporting completion of the road.

The Midway City Council passed a resolution in January urging “extreme caution and careful consideration” in the design and construction of the road, “as it may negatively affect the future health and safety of citizens” who live along it in Midway.

The state’s current six-year road plan includes $2 million for design of the road, $5 million for purchase of rights of way, $2 million for utilities relocation, and $30 million for construction.

Ultimately, whether the road is built is up to state legislators, who put out a new road plan every two years, Sprague said.

“They could take the project out and add it back in two years from now,” he said.

Greg Kocher: 859-231-3305, @HLpublicsafety

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