The fake hills of Shelby County

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By Nathan L. McBroom

The only Shelby County that many Americans will ever see is the land along 1-64.

After passing through the modern sprawl of Louisville, the county line is a welcome site to weary eyes. The land, which is known for its pastoral beauty and natural splendor, draws more tourism and business into the community than any advertisement ever could.

That splendor has now been compromised.

Thanks to our friends in Frankfort, along with the natural beauty that God gave us, motorists on the I-64 now have some new scenery to look at as they travel through the community -- a long row of hideous, fake hills that runs down the middle of a large section of the interstate and promises to haunt us for years to come.

The hills, which are a by-product of the interstates' expansion to three lanes, started popping up last year as the construction project progressed. Stretching for about five miles between exits 35 and 43, the hills are set to eventually expand throughout the county.

When I first saw the mounds, I immediately hated them. In my humble estimation, the trees that were there before were much easier on the eyes and much better for the environment. Not that I want to get in the way of progress, but I just prefer trees: sue me.

But, knowing the trees would have to give way to progress, I expected to see in their place the standard, bland, flat median that would be covered with grass. It may be boring, but it's also not distracting from the beauty that's outside the passenger window.

Up until now, I have held my tongue because I wanted to give the state the benefit of the doubt and wait until I saw what the plastic hills would actually look like.

And now that the mounds are covered with grass and it's clear what they will look like, I am resolved: I hate them.

I liken the exchange of the trees for a three-lane interstate with fake hills to Jimmy Carter giving up the Panama Canal: we got nothing for everything.

And I'm not alone in my distaste for the faux hills.

An engineer for Kentucky Department of Transportation, who spoke to me on the condition that I wouldn't use his name, said such hills are, sadly, becoming more common across the state.

"I agree with you. I don't like it either," he said.

The hills, which are formed out of the dirt that is excavated in the expansion of the interstate, are cheaper for the state than removing all of the dirt from the site. They also comply with the required safety features for U.S. interstates and give state troopers a clever place to hide while waiting for speeders.

And not only is the look of the expansion subpar, but the location of where the project began was also a poor choice. The expansion, which is designed to ease traffic from Louisville to Lexington, should have started in one of those cities and worked toward the other: not in the dead middle. Perhaps if the project would have started in Louisville or Lexington we would have seen the hills coming and could have tried to stop the mounds at the county line.