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Jack Trumbo has been traveling Veechdale Road for all of his 68 years, and there’s one thing he said he never has seen out there – a bad accident.
“I remember when this was a gravel road,” Trumbo said. “I’ve lived out here my entire life, and I’ve never seen a serious accident. But I’m afraid we’re going to have one now, and nothing is worth losing a life, especially not an outlet mall.”
Trumbo and several concerned residents of the area came out Thursday morning to talk about how the tight curve is just one of the problems of the newly constructed Veechdale Road that crosses the railroad tracks on the west side of the road and meets up with Buck Creek Road on the east side, just south of the new Outlet Shoppes at Louisville. Contractors for Horizon Group Properties, which is developing the 50-acre 374,000-square-foot retail site, built the road to the state’s specifications.
And that’s exactly what’s left Trumbo and his neighbors confused.
“How in the world did they [state officials] sign off on this?” he asked.
Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) said he has contacted the state Department of Transportation and that he hopes by Monday to hear their plans to repair a narrow, sharp curve at the railroad crossing that requires vehicles pulling trailers to leave their lanes to negotiate.
“It’s not just the curve, although that’s a big problem,” he said. “They also need to clear that tree line and the berm along the railroad tracks so you can see down the tracks.”
Many larger vehicles – such as combines and tractor trailers, horse trailers and vehicles pulling grain bins – simply won’t fit going around the turn, Hornback said that should have been taken into consideration.
“Transportation officials simply didn’t look at the residents currently using the road,” he said. “They see the old Veechdale Road as a seventeen-or-eighteen foot road, and now it’s twenty-two, twenty-three feet, and they think that’s an improvement. But when you have a wide piece of farm equipment, it’s not an improvement. Those six-eight-inch curbs can do a lot of damage to farm tires. Now, a rounded curb like you see in some other areas would be better.
“But the issue that has to be maintained first is the curve and the railroad crossing. I think once the turning radius is widened, your semis pulling grain bins and horse trailers will be fine.”
Andrea Clifford, spokesperson for the Transportation Cabinet, confirmed what she had said last week – when these concerns first emerged – that the state had survey crews in the area this week, but she reiterated that the road would not be torn up and redone. Those statements had not appeased Trumbo and others residents of the area, who have continued to voice their concerns.
“We don’t have a timetable or finished plan yet, but we are only working to improve the turning radius for the larger vehicles and farm machinery,” Clifford said “We’re not tearing out the existing road and starting over.”
Why does this happen?
Hornback said that’s fine, as long as contractors can complete some of the other necessary safety changes to allow for a better site lines for oncoming trains.
But he said that still leaves him with a glaring question, one he has vowed to get an answered:
“Horizon, the outlet mall developers, built this road and paid for it. That was part of the deal,” he said. “But the state signed off on it. How do they sign off on a plan with a turning radius like this? Even with regular traffic it can be difficult to handle.
“Why something like this happens is what I want to know. Just like with Freedom’s Way [the Shelbyville Bypass]. How do we have engineers and inspectors on site and let that concrete be poured or this curve be built?
“Either the people overlooking these projects aren’t there or they’re not capable, and if that’s the case, then we need to do something about it. Someone needs to be held accountable.”
Development remains on schedule
As the state looks to correct the issues with Veechdale Road, the mall work continues.
Tom Rumptz, Horizon’s vice president in charge of the construction, said the facility remains on schedule for a late July or early August opening.
“You may have seen that we have started with the initial coat on a portion of the parking lot, and steel is up on four buildings,” he wrote in an E-mail. “The plan is to have all buildings enclosed so primarily interior work in conditioned space will be performed during the winter.”
The city of Simpsonville also remains on schedule with its work to connect the property to the city’s sewer system. About 100 of the 300 feet is complete.
Simpsonville Mayor Steve Eden said at a city commission meeting that the project is about a month away from completion and should be finished before the predicted Thanksgiving date of finish.