The Richmond Register

August 26, 2013

I-75 connector would help economy with limited environmental impact

Nancy Stone
Guest Columnist

MADISON COUNTY — The final phase of a two-part environmental impact study currently being conducted by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will answer the decades old question of whether a connector road can be built between US 27 and Interstate 75 Exit 95 in Madison County.

It is a question that simply won’t go away and needs to be answered.

A connector is not a new idea. Completed in 1890, a railroad and bridge over the Kentucky River was built from Frankfort to Beattyville, connecting some of the regions that will be served by the proposed connector. Concrete pillars for the bridge can easily be seen today at the Valley View Ferry crossing.

The need for this connective transportation route has been documented in the Jessamine County comprehensive plans since the 1990s. A 2001 visioning process for Jessamine County, led by the University of Kentucky, clearly states the US 27/I-75 connector as the number one transportation need for the community.

The process to determine whether a road is needed began with a feasibility study that was completed in 2008 and found the road could ease heavy traffic conditions on US 27, enhance connectivity in the region and positively impact the quality of life for the area. The second and current study continues with a more in-depth study of environmental and cost challenges.

The need for the road has been accelerated by Jessamine County’s rapid growth which started in the 1990s. The growth and increased traffic problems encouraged County Judge/Executive Neal Cassidy, the Metropolitan Planning Organization and local residents to take a hard look at ways ease the volume and associated safety issues.

Transportation data lists an amazing 43,500 passenger vehicles currently using US 27 near Brannon Crossing every single day; 33,500 at the intersection of US 27 and Main Street in Nicholasville; and 19,500 vehicles at the bridge over the Kentucky River at the Garrard-Jessamine county lines.

From the very beginning, the connector project has been driven by local residents who understand transportation needs. They are law enforcement officials, emergency medical technicians, school officials and others who feel the sense of urgency to act now.

On a regional level, Barren River Area Development District and the Central Kentucky Regional Policy Group actively support the project because of its potential to enhance regional economics and quality of life issues.

As the Bluegrass region continues to grow, the population of Jessamine County is forecast to continue increasing with corresponding traffic count increases. When completed, 15,000 passenger vehicles are expected to use the proposed connector daily.

There is the misconception about the type of traffic forecast to use the road. Only 10 to 15 percent of the 15,000 is expected to be truck traffic, according to the standard formula used to forecast those numbers.

Judge Cassity stated during a public meeting on the project, “Without the connector, I don’t know what we will do with all the traffic in the future.”

Local community leaders have come together to insure better protection and control of land use in the county, which includes the areas served by the connector.

By combining Jessamine County, Wilmore and Nicholasville’s needs, the county now has in place for the first time, a Comprehensive Plan that is a cohesive, stricter, and thoroughly vetted document, specifically designed to address past issues and insure future controlled growth.

State and local officials understand the concerns for the area’s environment and the need to build the road and bridge with minimal impact. Because of the stringent state and federal guidelines that govern the evaluation and building process of all roadways, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is committed to ensure the road and bridge will address any concerns.

Urban and rural planners have always understood this road transcends Jessamine and Madison County issues. It is a proven fact that what is good for one county is good for surrounding counties. And when a region such as the Bluegrass flourishes, the commonwealth of Kentucky reaps the benefit.

Imagine what improved traffic flow and connectivity could mean for the Bluegrass Region, it would:  

• Boost economic investment and job creation, making it easier for companies, workers and customer to do business

• Enhance availability to schools and medical treatment

• Improve roadway safety and created an alternate route around Clays Ferry Bridge

• Offers more tourism opportunities by showcasing the breathtaking views of the area.

It all adds up to a regional roadway that will simplify and improve the quality of life in central Kentucky.

It deserves a thorough study and a final answer of whether or not it is a viable.

By all accounts of those who have been involved in the project from day one, the emphatic answer is “Yes. And the sooner, the better.”

Nancy S. Stone is a member of the Jessamine County Transportation Task Force.