Do Jessamine and Madison Counties need an I-75 connector between them? Some say no.
Linda Mihalec is in love with where she lives in Madison County.
“I live off Tates Creek Road near the Kentucky River and I run, cycle and hike quite a bit there. It’s such a beautiful area.”
Directly across the river, Liz Hobson feels the same way about her little corner of paradise in far eastern Fayette County.
Click here to see a map of the concerned areas for the proposed connector.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has identified a corridor – a roughly 13-mile-long, two-mile-wide swath of land between the two points – as a study area to determine the most effective route for the road within the corridor, should it be built.
There are a number of historic and environmental features within the corridor, such as remote Marble Creek and the Palisades on the Kentucky River, that have the potential to be affected, though a specific route has not been determined.
The Kentucky River Palisades are a series of steep, scenic gorges and limestone outcroppings stretching 100 miles along the river. Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation listed this landscape feature and other historic resources included in the I-75 Connector project’s corridor on its 2013 list of endangered historic properties in central Kentucky.
Some community leaders believe the region needs quicker access to the interstate to speed up commerce and boost economic development. It’s an idea that’s appeared and disappeared for nearly 20 years. Now the debate is on again.
Officially, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) takes a neutral approach on whether the road should or should not be constructed, but Robert Nunley, a branch manger of project development with the cabinet, says that mitigating the potential route’s affect on environmental resources is a priority during the preliminary design phase.
“From an environmental aspect, we take it all very seriously and we will deal with any environmental impacts that we may have,” Nunley said.
Nunley says currently the cabinet is working on identifying smaller corridors within the larger corridor, which would undergo greater scrutiny to determine which would have the least affect on the corridor as a whole. He said they hope to identify four smaller corridors which would then be presented to the public for comment.
The transportation cabinet also created a citizens advisory committee, set up a website explaining the proposed connector and asks people for input.
But Hobson and Mihslec and dozens of other riverside residents are already quite clear about how they feel.
“Our properties are either within the corridor or it would be very easy to see, hear and experience an I-75 connector road nearby,” Hobson said.
Hobson believes if new roads were the answer, Nicholasville would already be economically secure with the widening of Harrodsburg Road, the four-lane western bypass and Nicholasville Road.
“It doesn't make sense long-term to destroy farm land and natural resources so a truck might get to I-75 a few minutes faster. By the time the connector is filled with stoplights and businesses, like Man O War and New Circle are, the trip will take even longer,” she said.
In practical terms, Mihalec thinks the state can’t afford the project, given its financial condition. “Other road projects that were supposed to bring jobs and improve the economy haven’t done that, in my opinion,” Mihalec said.
She also believes there’s already plenty of room for economic development in the county. “We have room for growth that doesn’t have to be along a new road. We should work with what we have,” Mihalec said.
She also questions what would happen if the project got started, then hit a roadblock, no pun intended, such as with financing.
For Mihalec and Hobson, their next step is to continue educating people in the region and to make their concerns known to elected officials in the two counties and in Frankfort. “I am not against growth, but this isn’t the way to grow,” Mihalec said.
Hobson believes the project would benefit select road contractors, but as far as economic development, she sees other ways to accomplish that.
“I believe making Nicholasville and Jessamine County attractive places to live and work is far more effective. Thoughtful development, attention to the downtown and to informational technology and communication careers and creative ideas about business growth, could benefit many Jessamine Countians,” she surmised.
Finally, Hobson believes strong leaders are needed to visualize a future for Jessamine County that values and preserves its heritage. “At the same time, planning for a future that doesn't rely solely on moving goods by huge, gas guzzling trucks,” she said.
Updates and more information on the I-75 Connector can be found at www.i-75connector.com. There will be a public meeting on the matter at 5 p.m. April 11 at East Jessamine Middle School.