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Snafu snarls bypass construction - Burks Branch stays closed to through traffic

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By Lisa King

With his hands on his hips, Carl Henry snorted in frustration.

"They're telling me now it will be closed until the middle of August, and if they come back and tell me it won't be open until December, I wouldn't be surprised," he said.

Henry, supervisor at the Shelby County Road Department, told the Shelby County Fiscal Court Tuesday that the bypass construction on Burks Branch Road has been delayed because AT&T had installed some telephone lines improperly and had to come back out and do the work over. He told magistrates that he intended to meet with officials at the Transportation Cabinet to make sure the deadline for the road's reopening would be on schedule.

Burks Branch has been closed since May, and many residents there have been calling the road department complaining, Henry said.

"They are telling me it's seven to nine miles difference if you have to go all the way around," he said.

Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger sympathized with the frustration that people are feeling.

"What really aggravates some of the residents out there is that on Herrington Mill, which will also intersect with the new bypass, they have a temporary road for them, but not on Burks Branch," he said. "But on Herrington Mill, there was not a lot of dirt moving and excavation that had to be done, where with Burks Branch road, there's a marked elevation difference because the road has to be elevated 17 feet. It's a larger engineering challenge than it is at Herrington Mill."

Herrington Mill and Burks Branch Road are the only two county roads which are being affected by the construction of the $60 million Shelbyville Bypass. In addition, three state roads, US 60, Ky. 53 and Ky. 55, will be affected where they will intersect with the bypass.

But Henry said that construction should not cause any substantial delays because there will be a detour for Ky. 53, and on the other two roads, traffic will not be affected at all because those roads will simply "blend in" with the bypass.

Emergency concerns

In addition to the hassle over having to take a longer route into town, residents are also concerned about emergency vehicles being able to get into the neighborhood quickly enough.

Shelby County Fire Chief Bobby Cowherd said people should not worry about getting help to them because alternate routes have been established.

"We know which way to go and what needs to be done," he said.

Rothenburger said that even though emergency vehicles can gain access through alternative routes, he realizes that it adds an average of 10 minutes to their response time.

"It is a delay for them because they have to go all the way around and come in from the other end," he said.

Rothenburger and Henry have scheduled a meeting with the state engineer in charge of the project to see if a temporary access road can be established for emergency vehicles until the road reopens.

"We want to address that," Rothenburger said.

Henry said that state officials have assured him the project is on schedule and he believes that to be true.

"They (state) put a time limit on it, and if they don't open it when they (construction company) say they will, they will fine them so much money a day," he said.

Rothenburger said that he, too, thinks Burks Branch will reopen by the middle of August.

"The good thing is, I'm seeing a lot of dirt being moved right now, so they definitely have it in high gear," he said.

Tony McGaha, the engineer in charge of the project, said people can rest assured that Burks Branch will reopen on schedule.

"Our goal is to have it open by the middle of next month, and we expect to meet that deadline," he said.

Henry cautions the public not to cut through the construction site instead of taking the longer route into town.

"I'll put it to you this way, if something happened, they could get them for trespassing and they would be in violation, because they have to look out for people's safety," he said.

He added that he understands that people are frustrated with the inconvenience the construction is causing, but that they should remember that it is for a very good cause.

"No matter how you look at it, the bypass is needed so bad," he said. "Matter of fact, we should have had it 10 years ago. And once it's done, it will be a big plus for the county, no doubt. You just go downtown about four o'clock, and you'll see why."

Getting done?

The bypass is expected to be completed by the fall of 2009.

Despite delays, state engineers said Burks Branch Road should be reopened by mid-August.

When finished, the bypass will connect U. S. 60 at Ky. 55 South (Taylorsville Road) with Ky. 53 North (Eminence Pike). The bypass will be just over four miles long.