Tim Conklin: Versailles project too costly for land lost, little travel time cut

Tim Conklin of Versailles is a real estate broker and hobby horse owner.
Tim Conklin of Versailles is a real estate broker and hobby horse owner.

On Oct. 30, I attended a meeting at the Woodford County Middle School in Versailles where information regarding a proposed Falling Springs NW road extension was made public. I was there to learn about the conceptual plans and to ask a simple question: "Why is this $40 million project necessary?"

To be clear, I am adamantly against this project because my Versailles home is smack dab in the middle of the proposed route. I do not want to be displaced from this beautiful area of the planet, and neither do my horses.

But, for the purpose of this commentary, let's assume my reasons for attending were motivated entirely by civic-mindedness, something I do in fact care about.

The dozens of representatives from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet at the meeting appeared well-prepared for my question because I received exactly the same, seemingly rehearsed, answer from each: "This project is to improve mobility in the corridor."

The meeting itself seemed more like a trade show whose purpose was to promote all the good work that the cabinet was doing for the area instead of communicating the specific details of the project to the public.

The space was laid out with informational booths where one could interface directly with the representatives and where you could obtain a form to pose your questions and comments. But, from what I observed, public input was not being encouraged.

One representative I was explaining my concerns to put on a big smile and said, "I hear ya." But I do not think he did. Undaunted, I looked without success for supportive data that would demonstrate how mobility would be enhanced.

So, for the past several days I have made it my mission to understand what is meant by "improve mobility in the corridor." From what I can determine, we already have a route that is, at most, 24 furlongs (my horses made me say that) longer than the Falling Springs NW extension conceptual plan.

From Interstate 64, vehicles can simply exit to U.S. 60 South using the existing eastern bypass to avoid downtown.

Next is to turn left (east) onto U.S. 60 toward Lexington followed by a right onto the Blue Grass Parkway where traffic can then get off at Ky. 33, head south, and follow the normal route to Nicholasville on Ky. 169. The same routing can be used in the opposite direction.

According to my calculations, using this existing route impacts the commuters by about 3.25 minutes, but let's be conservative and round it up to five minutes of mobility inconvenience.

And, even if signage and a traffic light will be necessary to fully implement the existing route, my math also tells me that employing this approach to solving the perceived mobility issues will be orders of magnitude less expensive than the $40 million estimated for this project.

I sense there is more to this effort than to improve mobility. But I anticipate the relevant information will be released to the public in palatable pieces instead of the indigestible meal at once.

By the time the entire plan is released, the project will be well under way, too late to put a stop to it. Examples of other morsels to come are possibly turning Ky. 169 into a four-lane highway. Perhaps there will even be a serving of a new Walmart in the mix. A tart after-meal cordial might be one that turns downtown Versailles into Nowhere, USA.

The next time I am in one of the downtown Versailles establishments I will see if I can get an opinion about how the proprietor feels about being bypassed.

In the meantime, I will continue to look for any unstated reasons for this expensive disruptive project and, of course, continue to appreciate my horses while I can, as they roam this same piece of real estate where past Thoroughbred champions have grazed.