Op-Ed

Versailles should not bypass common sense

Every day, traffic flows past my business at the heart of downtown Versailles. I have heard it explained that for "safety's sake" we citizens absolutely must pay $39 million to build a long bypass around Versailles. But, though I spend every business day in downtown Versailles, what I was told does not quite jibe with what I see.

Downtown Versailles does not seem to have a traffic safety problem, at least no more than any other downtown, so I did a little digging for facts.

The facts are somewhat different. The Kentucky Department of Transportation performed a traffic safety study in 2010, for the city (ENTRAN study), and no other has ever been performed. The ENTRAN study did not find that downtown Versailles needed to be bypassed with a "Northwest Mobility Corridor."

Instead, the experts recommended far cheaper, albeit less sexy, commonsensical changes to modernize Versailles' road system. They recommended eight specific modifications be made, and relegated the bypass to further study.

They did not recommend the proposed bypass. Instead, downtown signals should be coordinated, some parallel parking spaces eliminated to improve flow, signage improved, the existing bypass be made safer (it has the most accidents), intersections be improved, signs be placed telling nonlocal tractor trailers to not go through downtown, and a roundabout built where five streets intersect.

These recommendations have not been fully implemented or measured. Other ideas considered were a "flyover" exit ramp from Blue Grass Parkway westbound onto Versailles Road/U.S. 60 at one-fourth the cost, and an eastward expansion of Falling Springs Boulevard, connecting to U.S, 60.

This past year a blue-ribbon panel of local citizens considered this proposed bypass. However, it turns out the Citizens Advisory Committee was not empowered to decide whether to build the proposed bypass, but only to offer nonbinding suggestions concerning its final route.

Nor was this idea vetted through the Woodford Comprehensive Plan process, which guides all land use planning and is updated every few years. The 2011 plan actually recommended that further analysis of this proposed bypass be performed, which hasn't occurred. New traffic studies are needed. No new bypass should move forward outside the plan process.

Recently, the most comprehensive survey of Woodford countians ever conducted was completed. The Woodford Forward Survey found that the citizens of Versailles and Woodford County disagreed with a need for this bypass.

Of the 10 traffic safety improvements considered on the survey, the "Northwest Mobility Corridor" scored dead last, with only 19 percent in support.

It is not too late to help this situation. A public meeting is scheduled for Oct. 27, beginning at 5 p.m., at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System building. The people of Versailles and Woodford County need to request that their leaders listen to the experts and the voters, and put a hold on this nonsensical waste of public funds, implement the affordable strategies the experts suggest and the people want, and require that this new bypass be further studied as part of the upcoming comprehensive plan.

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