Residential and commercial development along Rich Pond Road (Ky. 242), in high gear since South Warren High School opened in 2010, could lead to an upgrade in the area’s transportation network.

The final report of a study conducted by the Michael Baker International consulting firm recommends the Rich Pond Road area as the preferred location for a possible new southern Warren County interchange with Interstate 65.

And all those subdivisions and retail establishments that have sprung up near SWHS played a key role in the selection made by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet in partnership with the Bowling Green-Warren County Metropolitan Planning Organization.

One of three sites considered in the MBI study, Rich Pond Road actually graded slightly lower than Ky. 240 near Woodburn. But KYTC District 3 Chief Engineer Joe Plunk said the MBI “decision matrix” didn’t factor in existing development.

“We observe behavior and look at where people are building houses,” Plunk said. “Right now, it’s Plano and Rich Pond.

“When those developments come up, people tell us that the infrastructure isn’t there yet. The stakeholders (on the MPO committee) concurred that the most urgent need for now is Ky. 242.”

The highest-scoring of four options considered for an interchange near the Ky. 242 overpass would address the growing transportation needs in both Rich Pond and Plano.

That option would be located north or south of the existing overpass. It would extend to Ky. 622 (Plano Road) and include a new connection to Nashville Road.

With a score of 65.6 on the MBI matrix that took into account connectivity, safety, environmental impact and cost, the Ky. 242 option ranked below the 72.1 score of a proposed Ky. 240 interchange that would utilize and improve the existing overpass while extending to Ky. 622 and including a new connection to Nashville Road.

The options for Ky. 242 and Ky. 240 were deemed feasible in the MBI study while options for the Carter Sims Road area were ruled out.

MBI’s study included an online survey in which 45% of respondents picked Ky. 240 as the preferred location for a new interchange and 35% selected Ky. 242. Only 9% preferred Carter Sims Road, and 11% said they would prefer no new interchange be built.

Responding to a question raised during an MBI online meeting about the need for another Warren County interchange, Plunk said the 14-mile gap between exit 20 in Warren County and exit 6 in Simpson County is one of the largest between the Tennessee state line and Louisville.

But the need for a new interchange doesn’t necessarily mean it will be built right away.

A KYTC news release said the next step to move the project forward is to enter it into the state’s Highway Plan process to be considered for funding. Preliminary estimated costs for a new interchange in the Ky. 242 area range from $37.7 million to $49.8 million.

Plunk likens this project to the exit 30 interchange near the Kentucky Transpark, which opened in 2018 after nearly a decade of planning and construction.

“Once it’s funded, a project of this scale will be about a decade away,” Plunk said.

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

​– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.