Bypass can help downtown Versailles, make city safer

Downtown Versailles should be a destination, not a route. It is a gem that we are continuously trying to spotlight and improve.

One of my goals is to make downtown more pedestrian friendly. Unfortunately, heavy traffic and tractor-trailers are not conducive to citizens and visitors on foot. As an example, downtown Midway manages to prosper primarily because Railroad Street is not used for through traffic.

Moving people and goods from Point A to Point B is not a new concept. Making sure it is done safely and efficiently has to be the goal of elected leaders. To do that, there is a proposal I am advocating that will extend Falling Springs Boulevard to U.S. 60.

This new two-mile route, which has been the subject of an opposition public relations campaign, is a positive project that will greatly improve quality of life in Woodford County.

It would make downtown more attractive to visit and would extend by 50 years the time before Main Street reaches capacity.

Analyzing traffic patterns, one can see that we already have a northwest “bypass:” Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., Beech Street, Kentucky and Camden avenues are used by many residents to bypass downtown. According to an earlier study which analyzed traffic solutions in the northwest portion of Versailles, Camden sees an excess of 3,000 cars per day. Martin Luther King, which is also heavily traveled, is only 11 feet wide in spots. None of these streets were designed to handle this traffic, and it’s detrimental to quality of life.

Plans exist for a new high school to be constructed within the next decade on the existing portion of Falling Springs Boulevard. This new connector road would provide a safer and quicker route for the school buses and student drivers, including those that will be coming from the new residential developments in Midway.

Many will cite alternatives to this project as better solutions, most of which are already completed or not viable. According to the Transportation Cabinet, our downtown traffic signals are timed for optimum operation. We have removed some on-street parking to allow better stacking in lanes. A flyover ramp at the end of the Bluegrass Parkway was dismissed in a previous study as unfeasible due to construction costs. An eastern bypass would provide needed relief to some residential streets that desperately need it, but wouldn’t solve this same problem.

Admittedly there are challenges associated with this proposed road. The first is the potential impact on the Woodford County Park. If planned carefully, this road would improve safety at the park. Immediate access to the park from the north of town would also improve travel to our new food pantry, Falling Springs Arts & Recreation Center, Bluegrass Railroad Museum, senior citizens’ center, and recycling center.

The new road would be abutted by a multi-use recreational path. This would improve access to trail systems and be a plus for our many walkers, joggers and cyclists. The goals of this new road could only be achieved if commercial and residential development are severely restricted along the entire corridor.

One of the major points of contention associated with this is the impact on Midway Road. I am not insensitive to these concerns and realize the hazards of traveling that highway. Reducing the speed limit, adding shoulders or a dramatic widening would immediately help address safety issues.

I look forward to further discussion about how to make this road a reality, and it is imperative that all reasonable concerns are heard and considered.

The opposition of Lexington and Richmond citizens on this paper’s editorial board does not concern me. This road can and will have a significant positive impact on Versailles and Woodford County.

Brian Traugott is mayor of Versailles

At issue: Nov. 29 Herald-Leader editorial, “Making law, sausage and the road plan”

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