Three possible sites for a new Interstate 65 interchange – to fill the gap between exit 20 in Warren County and exit 6 in Simpson County – have been identified, and now southcentral Kentucky residents have an opportunity to give input into the final decision.
Michael Baker International consulting firm has since last year been conducting a feasibility study, looking to identify the most desirable and practical improvements to the transportation network that will enhance access to I-65 in southern Warren County.
Now, in partnership with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Bowling Green-Warren County Metropolitan Planning Organization, MBI will hold a virtual public meeting on Tuesday, March 16, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. through a Zoom teleconference.
It’s a follow-up to a virtual public meeting held in September 2020 and will expand on the findings from that meeting.
At stake is the determination of which of the following three options MBI will recommend for a project that could transform areas of both southern Warren County and northern Simpson County if the project is funded in the future.
The choices: the Carter Sims Road area near the Plano community; Ky. 242, or Rich Pond Road in the Rich Pond community that is home to South Warren Middle and High schools; and Ky. 240, or Woodburn Allen Springs Road, in the Woodburn area.
“We now have three possible locations,” said Jeff Moore, a planner with MBI. “We’re hoping in this second phase of the study to be able to take the three options and narrow it down to one.”
Moore said MBI has a “decision matrix” that includes these factors:
- improving connectivity and mobility
- safety and improvements to emergency response
- land use and environmental impact
- cost estimates
Moore said MBI’s recommendation choices also include a “no build” option if an extra interchange is not deemed cost-effective. He said estimates of the cost, depending on the location and the amount of improvements needed to gain access to I-65, range from $16.5 million to $28.5 million.
No money for the project is in the state’s current Highway Plan, so both Moore and KYTC District 3 Public Information Officer Wes Watt say this is at best a long-term project.
“We’re just doing a feasibility study,” Moore said. “The state will have to find funding to do the preliminary engineering and design work and then construction.
“It could take eight to 12 years, depending on how high of a priority this will be.”
Watt pointed out that it “took more than a decade from start to finish” to get the exit 30 interchange that opened in 2018, giving Warren County five I-65 interchanges and improving access to the Kentucky Transpark.
“This is not something that is going to happen right away,” Watt said. “These are the very initial steps to get the process moving.”
Warren County Sixth District Magistrate Ron Cummings, who represents the southern end of the county, calls the decision on a new interchange “a very complex situation,” but he knows which of the three options he would choose.
“Looking at this objectively, the Woodburn (Ky. 240) area scores the highest because there’s less worry about buying up property,” Cummings said. “But when you look at serving the citizens of Warren County, we need the one closest to exit 20 (the Carter Sims Road option).
“All three have good possibilities and benefits. It (a new interchange) is needed for sure.”
Those like Cummings who have strong opinions about the location of a new interchange will have the opportunity to give their input through the interstate65-baker.hub.arcgis.com website.
That website includes a link to next Tuesday’s virtual public meeting, which will include a formal presentation by MBI at 5:30 p.m. and again at 6:15 p.m. Links to an online survey and to a virtual town hall are available on that website as well.
“It’s very important that we get as many people as possible to participate” in the public meeting, Watt said. “Out of this meeting we expect to have a recommendation for placement of a new interchange.
“We really need people in the community to give their thoughts.”