TIMES TRIBUNE (CORBIN, Ky.)
By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
Congestion, safety and slow-going have been words people use to describe driving on a section of U.S. 25W on the south end of Corbin for years.
On Tuesday, some of them got their first look at a way the state highway department wants to improve on that stretch of the Cumberland Falls Highway, during a community meeting.
The project to reconstruct that part of 25W would begin at Ky. 727, also known as 5th Street Road. It would move east through Exit 25 of I-75, go under the current 75 overpass, and end at the Corbin Bypass (Ky. 3041).
About 30 people came to the meeting held at Corbin City Hall. Project Manager Phillip Howard told those attending he considered them all as a committee to help get the project going in step.
“A couple of years ago, they did a survey on this corridor, and this was ranked high in priority to be designed. This was voted in, so it’s a real project, and there’s a good chance for a commitment. One reason we’re here today is because we’ve changed the way we do things. We want to get the community more involved in getting this project going your way, and to help us, too. We’re considering this as a committee. Everybody’s voice is important, and participation will make this a good meeting. I feel like some good things could happen from this project,” said Howard, who works with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s District 11 Office in Manchester.
Along with the aerial map boards and visual presentations, some facts, figures — and concerns — were brought up.
State highway crews counted 19,100 vehicles per day used the stretch of U.S. 25W in 2011. They found there were traffic backups and delays during peak hours, traffic problems during recent concerts and events held at the nearby Corbin Arena, and a high number of accidents.
In the corridor the state wants to reconstruct, a total of 268 crashes occurred from January 2009 to June 2012. They also cited unsafe access near the I-75 interchange at Exit 25, and a sharp curve on 25W west of I-75 as reasons for the project to begin.
Along with rebuilding the corridor in the south end, Warren Iulg with the consulting engineering company GRW Engineers listed several strategies that could be used in the project.
Among them were the use of two-way left turn lanes, a provision for U-turns, traffic signal coordination, raised medians with turn bays, minimizing conflict points when traffic turns across the intersection, along with the use of frontage and backage roads.
The design phase for the reconstruction of the U.S. 25W corridor is expected to start in fiscal year 2013, with a highway plan budget of $1.345 million. Right-of-way acquisition is set for fiscal year 2015, with a budget of $1.935 million. The relocation of utilities is pegged for fiscal year 2016, with a $1 million budget, with the construction of the project scheduled to begin in fiscal year 2017, with a $7.58 million budget.
Also mentioned was the separate project at the Exit 25 interchange of I-75, which would increase capacity, as well as provide immediate and emergency relief for traffic going to events held at the Corbin Arena. Iulg added the new interchange would provide improved movement of traffic, and could have five lanes underneath the interstate soon.
“Recently we awarded that project to widen the exit ramps to three lanes, with two exit lanes going into Corbin. They can start work now, and they’ve got until August 2014 to finish,” Howard noted.
Those at the meeting were told the state was looking at the potential for growth in South Corbin during the next 25 years, and that Tuesday’s session was “the first piece of the pie.”
“I think this widening of Exit 25 right now is the most urgent. … I like your plan. I’m just so glad it’s close to realization,” said Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney.
A public meeting to introduce the U.S. 25W corridor project will take place before this Thanksgiving. After that, the Transportation Cabinet will begin environmental studies, traffic studies and preliminary design. Later, they’ll hold a second round of what they call Community Advisory Group and public meetings next summer, where a preliminary design will be unveiled.
“The main purpose is to improve safety, as well as to make some capacity improvements, which is the ability to move more vehicles in a faster period of time. We’re here early now to find the right way to make improvements,” said Joe Schmeltzer, a GRW project engineer.
After the meeting, McBurney pointed out, “This is a much-needed project for the development of the south end of Corbin. For a project like this, I feel rather fortunate for this to be included. This will help relieve a lot of tension on traffic during Arena times. Looks like the highway department’s got a good plan.”