TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Local News

August 30, 2013

To Build, or Not To Build?

Opinions voiced at bypass extension public meeting

CORBIN — By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer

The second of two meetings concerning the possibility of building the Corbin Bypass Extension showed one feasibility study, four alternate routes, smaller corridors, revised construction costs — and people still divided in opinion.

Held Thursday from 5-7 p.m. at Hunter Hills Elementary School, the public information meeting was attended by about 175 persons. During the session, residents asked questions, reviewed maps with Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials, and voiced their concerns. Several filled out a brief survey, asking them if the project is needed, if the project should move forward, if if the meeting gave them the right kind of information abut the bypass extension’s feasibility study.

During a presentation minutes after the meeting started, Brian Aldridge of Stantec — one of two companies consulting with the state — reminded the audience that it was a planning study.

“At this point there is no decision made whether to go forward. …In June we heard people in favor of the project, and from those against it. It was pretty much split, so we need to hear more input. Again, I stress this is a feasibility study. No decisions or accommodations have been made… This is the final public meeting. Your input is critical to this process. If you don’t tell us anything, we don’t know what you want,” he stated.

At the first meeting, held June 13 at Lynn Camp High School, there were three alternative routes for the proposed bypass, starting at the current Corbin Bypass (Ky. 3041) intersection with the Cumberland Gap Parkway (U.S. 25E), and extending north through Knox and Laurel counties in a half-moon shape that arcs back to I-75. There was also a route that went from U.S. 25 between Corbin and London, going to I-75.

At Thursday’s meeting, four alternative routes were showed. All four could go as a “full extension,” starting from the (Ky. 3041-U.S. 25E intersection) and running north, then northwest, connecting with I-75. Or, they could be “partial extensions,” using their full extension routes but reduced in length and running from U.S. 25 west to I-75.

As full extensions, Alternative 1 would run 6.3 miles from the current Corbin Bypass to I-75. Alternative 2 would be 7.3 miles in length, while Alternative 3 would run 7.5 miles, with Alternative 4 going 6.3 miles.

As partial extensions, Alternative 1 would go 1.7 miles from U.S. 25 to I-75, while Alternative 2 would be 1.8 miles in length, while Alternative 3 would run 1.9 miles, with Alternative 4 going 1.8 miles.

Aldridge added instead of the 1,000-foot wide corridors used in June, the road would now have 500-foot wide corridors, and would have a new interchange at the current Corbin Bypass-U.S. 25E junction.

“We think the extension will look like the current bypass, with two lanes, truck lanes in some sections, and turnoffs,” he said.

With the revised alternative routes, the state Transportation Cabinet and its consultants, Stantec and Vaughn & Melton, estimated the full construction cost for the full extension would run from 40-45 million dollars, with the partial extension running from 21-21 million dollars. Aldridge stressed the figures do not include other costs, such as right-of-way, utilities relocation and other services.

Saying the proposed bypass extension’s “biggest benefit is reducing congestion,” Aldridge said the average costs, determining maintenance and long-term costs of the road, was estimated at $71.7 million for the full extension, and over $32 million for the partial extension.

“We tried to determine the long-term cost, looking over the next 30 years. It’s just an estimate,” he said after the meeting.

When the presentation ended, Jeff Sparks, who heads the group STOP the Corbin Bypass Extension, stood up near the top of the bleachers and said, “I do not want this bypass extension built. If you are against this project, would you stand up right now?” Several in the audience — some of them wearing white “STOP Corbin Bypass Extension” shirts, while others wore red shirts in protest to the proposed project.

“This bypass will destroy Corbin businesses,” Corbin City Commissioner Suzie Razmus told the crowd.

“Corbin means business and industry, and we need business,” stated a man sitting in the middle of the bleachers.

After the presentation, opinions were varied by those attending.

“We don’t need it. It’s going to disrupt so much. I agree they need to widen 25 in Laurel County. But to go up from 25E, through the country, all those nice farms? I don’t know who’s for it. Why are they for it? Who’s going to benefit?” said Brenda Clark of Lily.

“It was a good meeting. There seems to be a lot of people not for it. I think it could be a project myself. I live pretty close to the route, so it may affect me. Anytime you can get a project, you should get it while you can,” said James A. Smith, who lives outside Corbin in Knox County.

“I have sort of a biased opinion because the route comes by my house in Wildwood Trace, and my big complaint is that it does take away business along 25E and North Corbin. Those businesses would be bypassed,” said one man who asked not to be identified.

Sparks pointed out after the presentation, “The quote now is 71 million dollars, and I still believe that 71 million is spent in redundancy. Even though I was against the expansion of 25 to London, it appears that project will take place and remove many of the traffic concerns that the bypass extension would supposedly alleviate. The bypass will effectively bypass a great deal of businesses in North Corbin, and cause economic stagnation in that part of our city. That’s something the feasibility study does not take into account.”

Aldrdge said afterwards, “I’ve heard from both sides of the spectrum. It was similar to what we heard in June. I talked to people in person who were for and against. But we really don’t know until we get the comment sheets back from this meeting. This meeting was a feasibility study. We’re just trying to determine if this project is feasible and if the public wants it.”

“It was a good turnout with people speaking up in favor and against the project. We just wanted to give them the facts and let them decide. We wanted feedback from the community, and a great many did tonight. We’re very pleased,” said Jonathon Dobson, public affairs officer for the Transportation Cabinet’s District 11 Office in Manchester.

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