Woodburn area grades best on I-65 interchange study

Interstate 65 is seen from the Carter Sims Road overpass in southern Warren County.

No asphalt or concrete is going to be laid for years, if at all, but it appears from a consultant’s research that a site at the Ky. 240 overpass near Woodburn could be the preferred choice for a new southern Warren County interchange on Interstate 65.

In an online presentation Tuesday, representatives of the Michael Baker International consulting firm said the two options for placing the interchange at the existing Ky. 240 overpass score the highest in MBI’s “decision matrix” that takes into account connectivity, safety, environmental impact and cost.

That overpass is one of three sites being studied by MBI, which was hired by the Bowling Green-Warren County Metropolitan Planning Organization, with the others being the Carter Sims Road area near Plano and Ky. 242, or Rich Pond Road.

In the second and final online public meeting held as part of the study, MBI staffers Patty Dunaway and Karen Mohammadi presented to more than 100 online participants findings that showed two options for an interchange at Ky. 240 scoring the highest on their matrix.

Ranking the highest, with a score of 72.1, is an interchange that would utilize and improve the existing overpass while extending to Ky. 622 (Plano Road) and including a new connection to U.S. 31-W (Nashville Road).

A second Ky. 240 option, which didn’t include the new connection to Nashville Road, earned the second-highest score at 70.5.

The highest-scoring of four options studied in the Ky. 242 overpass area, with a score of 65.6, would be located north or south of the existing overpass. It would extend to Ky. 622 and include a new connection to Nashville Road.

Scoring worst were two options for the Carter Sims Road area, both of which would place a new interchange south of the existing overpass and connect to Ky. 622 near Plano Elementary School. The highest of the two scored 56.3.

“An interchange at the existing (Carter Sims) overpass is not feasible,” Mohammadi said.

The results of the scoring matrix were similar to those of an online survey conducted during the meeting.

Responding to a question about which of the three possible locations would be preferred, 45% of those joining the online meeting picked Ky. 240 while 35% selected Ky. 242. Only 9% preferred Carter Sims Road, and 11% said they would prefer no new interchange be built.

Some online commenters expressed their preference for the “no-build” option.

“Why are you aiming to build so close to two existing exits?” posted Ingrid Cartwright, who lives in the Plano area. “This doesn’t seem to be in the interest or need of the community. Most of us really want our area preserved as semi-rural.”

Responding to questions about the need for a new interchange, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 3 Chief Engineer Joe Plunk pointed out that 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.

Jeff Moore, a planner with MBI, said this second phase of the study will take the three options and narrow it down to one.

After that, the question will be how the project is funded.

There is no funding currently in the state’s Highway Plan for a new interchange, so Moore cautions that this is 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.”

That would be similar to the time frame for the exit 30 interchange that opened in 2018 after more than a decade of planning and construction.

Plunk noted exit 30 was funded largely from federal dollars, with a state match.

The MBI representatives also presented some cost projections Tuesday. They show the most expensive option being a Ky. 242 interchange with a new overpass and bypass road, coming with a price tag of $49.8 million.

Least expensive, at $28.5 million, is one of the Carter Sims Road options.

The preferred Ky. 240 interchange comes with an estimated cost of $44.7 million.

Although Tuesday’s was the final public meeting on the interchange options, Moore said MBI will be taking public input through the interstate65-baker.hub. arcgis.com website until April 1.

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

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