In partnership with the Bowling Green-Warren County Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet hosted a virtual public meeting Thursday on the possibility of a new interchange that would improve access to Interstate 65 in southern Warren County.
The targeted area for the potential new interchange is bordered by U.S. 31-W to the west and Ky. 622 to the east and extends from I-65 southward to the Simpson County line.
A feasibility study from outside consultant Michael Baker International drove the meeting.
The study’s main goals were to identify improvements to address connectivity of southern Warren County with I-65; identify improvements to increase the safety and mobility for all users; quantify the benefits and costs of a new connection to I-65; and prioritize the possible improvements and provide recommendations.
Three locations will be under consideration for the new I-65 interchange: Carter Sims Road, Ky. 242 (Richpond Road) and Ky. 240 (Woodburn Allen Springs Road). If it’s decided that an interchange is needed and is feasible, only one location will be selected.
“We are still a long way away from making any decisions concerning this possible new interchange,” said Wes Watt, KYTC District 3 public information officer. “But any idea has to have a first step, and this is that first step. We are still years down the road from anything happening.”
Watt said two main factors drove the idea of a new interchange.
The first factor is the relatively long distance that exists without a spot for drivers to turn around or get off I-65 in the 14-mile stretch between Bowling Green and Franklin.
The second factor is the growth that southern Warren County has seen in recent years.
More specifically, the construction of South Warren High School and Middle School (2010) along with Plano Elementary School and Jody Richards Elementary School has significantly affected travel patterns and spurred residential development.
Also, industrial park development along U.S. 31-W in northern Simpson County added to demand for an interchange with plant employees and trucks carrying materials and products to and from factories.
Held on Zoom, the virtual public meeting could only include a maximum 100 listeners from the public. The number of participants held steady around that limit.
“We always have to try and make adjustments on the fly,” Michael Baker International representative Patty Dunaway said of the virtual meeting. “While we wanted this meeting to be held in person, we want to be sure to get as much feedback as possible while everyone stays safe and healthy.”
Questions were prepared and given by Michael Baker International for the public to answer so that an accurate understanding of how citizens feel about the new interchange could be given.
One such question asked what environmental issues the public cared most about if a new interchange was built. Participants said the preservation of rural and agricultural land use along with the location of sinkholes were the most pressing environmental issues.
Another question posed to the public asked how often a new interchange would be used if built. Answers from the public varied greatly, but the most popular answers were that a new interchange would be used “very often” and “sometimes.”
After survey questions were answered, representatives from the consulting firm answered questions participants had asked in the ongoing chat below the presentation.
One viewer expressed concern that surrounding roads needed to be “fixed” first before a new interchange would be built.
“We are looking at those three locations as well as any connecting roads for any connectivity issues,” Dunaway said. “We are aware that several county roads are nearby, and any improvements that need to be made to ensure proper connectivity with a new interchange will be taken into consideration.”
Another viewer stressed that whether a new interchange was even needed greatly depended on which of the three locations would be picked for its construction.
“These are the things we want to hear from the community,” Dunaway said.
Other questions concerning topics ranging from road noise to the safety of cyclists were posed by the public, but ultimately Dunaway gave similar answers – such concerns need to be voiced either through the consulting firm’s survey or email address.
Written comments from the public will be accepted until Sept. 20 through the study survey located at www.surveymonkey.com/r/Interstate65Study. Other comments can be sent to the project’s email address at Interstate65Study@mbakerintl.com.
Next on the project’s timeline is a review of alternatives, connections and cost estimates, which will take place in January and February.
– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.