Saturday, July 25, 2015

Barrows disavows role in Versailles bypass that might help him, downplays Midway's US 62 traffic concerns

By Jacqueline Nie
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Citizens of Midway are concerned about heavier traffic on Midway Road, U.S. 62, if a northwestern bypass is built around Versailles.

Three of the four most likely routes for the bypass lead directly into U.S. 62, and two of those lead to a piece of land that is undeveloped but residentially zoned and owned by former state Rep. Joe Barrows and his family. The Citizens Advisory Committee for the project has leaned toward the one running through the Barrows property.

All four of the most likely routes go through a farm with a residence, owned by the Dufont Corp., where, according to public records, John Platt resides. These are the two largest undeveloped pieces of property in the bypass area that are adjacent to the developed area of Versailles. Platt could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.
Transportation Cabinet map looks west; property names added by Midway Messenger; click on map for larger image
Barrows was unresponsive in an initial interview, asking why questions were being asked. In a later interview, he said he was not responsible for adding the project to the state road plan.

Barrows, a Democrat from Versailles, was state representative from 1980 through 2006, the year the legislature put $500,000 into the state road plan for preliminary design of the “Northwest Versailles Mobility Corridor,” as the Transportation Cabinet calls it.

“I think that road ought to be built, but I don’t have a strong opinion where it should be built,” said Barrows, who is executive director of the state Commercial Mobile Radio Services Board and state 911 director.

Barrows said the project was conceived in the 1983-87 administration of Gov. Martha Layne Collins, but was removed by a later governor. He said he wasn’t for the construction of Falling Springs Boulevard, a sort of southwestern Versailles bypass, because it split his family’s other farm and didn’t increase its value.

Barrows said his family has contracted for development of their property along the northwest bypass route, retaining a 20 percent interest, “but I don’t consider that contract viable anymore” because of the market for additional housing in the area is weak.

Barrows was succeeded in 2007 by Democrat Carl Rollins of Midway, who served until 2013. During that time, the legislature added $40 million for the project: $3 million for detailed design, $5 million for buying right of way, $2 million for utility relocation and $30 million for construction, scheduled for 2017.

Rollins said he supported that because the Versailles City Council and fiscal court had voted to support a northwestern bypass, which would more or less complete a loop around Versailles. “Those two governing bodies, mayor of Versailles and the county judge, came to me,” Rollins said. “I did what I was supposed to do to get a study done for the bypass.”

The money to build the road has not yet been appropriated. Rollins said he was unaware that Barrows might benefit from construction of the bypass. “I was not aware that he owns any land on that side of Versailles or that he was part owner,” he said.

The property, on the west side of McCracken Pike (KY 1659), is owned by the estate of John E. Barrows. After a lengthy administrative and court battle, it was rezoned for a residential development about a decade ago.

The aspect of the bypass that has brought the greatest objections from Midway is the possibility that it would lead directly into Midway Road at its intersection with U.S. 60. Three of the five alternatives would do that, which Midwegians fear would funnel more trucks and other traffic onto the narrow road with poor shoulders that becomes Midway’s main north-south thoroughfare, Winter Street.

Barrows downplayed those concerns. “The only big trucks on Midway Road are the ones that are hauling in horses or bringing in hay,” he said. “I don’t think finishing this road will add to the big truck traffic.”

One of the three alternatives (in light green on the map) leading directly to Midway Road would run through an isolated slice of Brookdale Farm, very close to the Barrows property.

The other viable alternative (shown in red on the map) would end the bypass at the north end of the existing bypass, where it splits from U.S. 62 and the business route of U.S. 60. That route would run through the northeast half of the Barrows property and the southern half of the larger DuFont property.

All three of the alternatives that would go directly to Midway Road would also run through the DuFont property.

The Citizens Advisory Committee leaned toward the red route, running through the Barrows property and ending at the north end of the existing bypass.

Only one of the three routes running directly into Midway Road, the middle (lavender) route through Brookdale Farm, got a favorable vote from the committee.

Another alternative would have the bypass intersect U.S. 60 more than half a mile north of the U.S. 62 intersection, toward Frankfort. That route is not considered likely to be chosen because it would be the longest and is most strongly opposed by the committee.

Committee members voted on each of the five alternatives, as well as two others that would merge two of the alternatives. The lavender route received six positive votes and two negative votes, with 12 abstentions. Light green received five positive and six negative votes, with nine abstentions. Blue only received one positive vote, along with 10 negative votes and nine abstentions. Magenta did the best, receiving six positive and two negative votes with 12 abstentions.

The red route got eight positive and two negative votes, but also 10 abstentions. The outer route (shown in orange on the map) did the worst, getting only one positive vote, with 16 negative votes and three abstentions.

The only alternative route that got more positive votes than negative votes plus abstentions was a combination of the beginning of the lavender route and the end of the red route.

Some community leaders support a “no build” option, in which safety measures would be taken – such as signage along U.S. 60 near the Bluegrass Parkway exit, and moving the “Federal AAA trucking highway” designation of the Midway Road portion of U.S. 62 to U.S. 60.

There will be a meeting in September for the general public to comment on the alternatives. The Citizens Advisory Committee will review the public’s comments, and the cabinet and the Burgess & Niple engineering firm will choose a preferred alternative for the committee to review, probably in December.

The pressure for a northwest bypass of Versailles comes from commercial interests in the city who say industrial truck traffic – some of it from the Osram Sylvania plant that would be along the bypass route – is choking downtown business and endangering pedestrians.

There is no direct route from Versailles to Interstate 64 eastbound or to I-75. After the Bluegrass Parkway was built in 1965, an extension to I-64 and/or I-75 was proposed, but the idea was dropped 40 years ago because of opposition from preservationists in the Pisgah Pike Historic District.

Information for this story was also gathered by Al Cross, instructor of student reporters for the Midway Messenger.

No comments: