By Jeff Noble / staff writer
Congestion along U.S. 25 in the south end of London has been a concern of many motorists. As a result, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) has a plan which they think could solve the problem.
They asked people their thoughts and comments about the project. And Thursday evening, during a public hearing at South Laurel High School, the people came out in force.
The public hearing was held to show the Transportation Cabinet’s plans to turn the current U.S. 25 into two roads.
One would make the current Rt. 25 into what they called “Existing U.S. 25.” Designed for local traffic, it would be a new four-lane highway with a raised median and designated areas provided for left turns and U-turns.
It would follow the existing path of 25, staring at the intersection of Rt. 25 and KY 192, past South Laurel High, several car dealers, furniture stores and businesses before ending near the London-Corbin Airport and joining what would be called “Relocated U.S. 25.” From that point, U.S. 25 would go south to Corbin, as it presently does.
The other road would be what they call “Relocated U.S. 25.” Designed for thru traffic from London to Corbin, and to provide an alternate route during accidents or closings on I-75, it too would be a new four-lane highway with a raised median and designated areas provided for left turns and U-turns.
“Relocated U.S. 25” would start at the intersection of Main Street and the current KY 229, and would follow that road to James Lewis Drive. There, “Relocated 25” would break off from KY 229, and continue as a new road, joining “Existing 25” near the airport and continuing as a four-lane highway before ending at the intersection of Levi Jackson Mill Road and becoming two lanes south to Corbin.
The Transportation Cabinet also proposed four alternate alignments along “Relocated 25.”
Jonathan Dobson of the KYTC’s District 11 office in Manchester said before the hearing the state was expecting a large turnout.
“We’ve had a lot of response, and we had a good presentation with the (London-Laurel County) Chamber of Commerce earlier today. They had concerns about businesses affected, people being relocated, right-of-way acquisition and the effects this would have on existing businesses by the new, or ‘Relocated 25,’” stated Dobson, who is District 11’s public information officer.
Officials added the main function of the two routes was to move traffic over long distances at higher speeds, and the design of the the two roads was to minimize impacts along the right-of-way.
When the crowd came, state Transportation Cabinet officials were armed and ready with lots of maps, large photos, reams of information and, in one case, a virtual video of what the project would look like when completed.
There was no formal hearing or speeches, just officials meeting with the public and letting them express their thoughts, opinions and suggestions.
Around 160 persons showed up for the public hearing, held in the cafeteria at South Laurel High.
Dobson said the “right in-right out” concept where motorists cannot make a left-hand turn, to prevent people from having to make left turns into incoming traffic, would be used in the project.
After the hearing, he pointed out the concept had a lot of people concerned. In fact, it was the biggest concern for some.
“Everybody I’ve talked to has had a problem with the no-left turn barrier on Route 25. You have to make U-turns to come back to your property. And when they relocate to what they call ‘Alternate 25’, they project the traffic will be cut in half on the original 25. But why prohibit that left-hand turn?” said Tom Handy of London.
Some, like Shirley Smith of London, were overwhelmed by what the project wants to do.
“I’ve been looking at what they’re proposing, and it’s confusing. Nothing’s set in stone, but it’s no sure thing. The different alternate routes are confusing and apparently they’re going to do away with some of the entrances,” she said.
One woman from London, who asked to remain anonymous, added she thought the plan would work, for the most part.
“It’s going to impact us some. I think the relocated 25 is a good idea, because they need to get some of the traffic off 25. I think the ideas are good. Safety-wise, it is good, but businesses will be affected. My husband and I will just have to wait and see how it comes out.”
“I’m hoping these are preliminary drawings and projections. It’s really going to affect a lot of businesses on existing 25 in terms of access, parking and truck deliveries. They’re open to comments and they want feedback. I think the Transportation Cabinet will get a lot of feedback,” said Sarah King of London.
When the hearing began to wind down, Dobson reported the response was very good.
“We were very pleased with the turnout. We asked the public their opinions of this design, and they came out and responded. The most popular aspect of it would be the separation of the thru traffic with the in-town traffic on both the ‘Existing 25’ and ‘Relocated 25.’ Some had the concerns about the ‘right-in, right-out concept on left turns, but they warmed up to it when we told them we’re using the same concept for this project as we presently have on U.S. 27 in Somerset. The information gleaned from the individuals will give us good basis for the continuing alignment of the design,” he noted.
Dobson said the KYTC anticipates it will be a couple of years before construction of the London project, but they hope to begin the process of purchasing the right-of-way and relocating utilities by the fourth quarter of this year.