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Even though it’s estimated that people will be pouring into the county by the tens of thousands for the opening of the Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass Thursday, officials say they are ready for those crowds. Especially law enforcement, which will have about two dozen officers from several departments set to handle the traffic influx.
A traffic plan coordinated by the Simpsonville Police Department, Kentucky State Police and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet contains several components, including offsite parking, officers physically directing traffic at key areas, digital signs with traffic updates along I-64, and the presence of a “Safe” patrol unit supplied by the cabinet.
Simpsonville Police Chief Chip Minnis said that a general estimate has been calculated of how many people could be attending.
“I can’t give you a magic number,” he said. “The thing is, we don’t know how many people folks are going to try to make it that first weekend. Some people, I’ve heard, are going to be wise enough to say, ‘I don’t have to be there that first weekend, I’ll catch it the following weekend.’ The numbers I’ve heard people speak of is anywhere from twenty-thousand to thirty-thousand people this weekend.”
Minnis said that KSP would be directing traffic at the Buck Creek Road area and several other locations that have the potential to become bottlenecked.
“We don’t want to have any type of tie-ups on the interstate, so they’ll be handling those intersections,” he said. “Our officers and some Shelby County units will be handling the traffic control points around the shopping mall on Veechdale Road and the access into the mall. Officers will be physically directing traffic as needed, letting traffic go in and out, shutting off parking when necessary into the mall and directing traffic, and the state police will be directing traffic to the off-site locations [at the Shelby County Flea Market and in the field across Veechdale Road from the mall], and directing traffic in and out of those points.
The transportation folks will have their people there with cones and so forth so that if we do have issues on the interstates, such as an accident, they will be there to cone it off and keep traffic flowing as best we can.”
Minnis said that offsite parking is going to be available in the adjacent vacant property south of the mall and at the Shelby County Flea Market. In addition, he said, mall employees will be parking at Simpsonville Baptist Church and Simpsonville Elementary School to free up more parking spaces for shoppers. Free shuttles will be running from those locations from July 31 to Aug. 3.
If all the off-site parking is available, Minnis said, there would be more than 6,200 parking spots, but only about 4,500 if some of the area is washed out due to rain.
“The rain needs to stay away [from some areas] because they are what are called fill in properties, where they have just been freshly excavated and if gets wet, it will become a muddy situation and cars will get stuck,” he said.
Those procedures will be in place through Sunday.
Signs and patrols
KSP officials say that in order to better facilitate a smooth flow of traffic in the area, they will have digital signs along I-64 to advise motorists of lane usage both eastbound and westbound near Exit 28, and on U.S. 60 and Buck Creek Road.
Andrea Clifford, public information officer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said that cabinet staff have been meeting with law enforcement agencies for the past two months to coordinate the traffic plan for the mall opening.
“KYTC staff will be on-site July 31 through August 3 to help manage timing on the traffic signals and messages on the electronic message boards,” she said. “We will be mainly doing logistics to help Kentucky State Police and local law enforcement.”
The digital signs, Minnis said, will display information about the traffic situation.
“They [signs] will give folks a heads up, saying things like, right lane, two miles ahead, mall traffic, and so forth,” he said. “They will have the ability to change the signs if something does arise where we have to shut the exit off or shut a lane down because of an accident.”
Also, Clifford said, the cabinet will send one of its safety patrol units to the area – these vehicles are small box trucks that the state has in continuous operation on the interstates to provide roadside assistants to motorists.
“We have a couple of Safe Patrol trucks that normally patrol the entire stretch of I-64 between I-265 [Gene Snyder Freeway] and the Frankfort/Woodford County [line],” she said. “We are going to keep one of these trucks in the vicinity of the Simpsonville exit that weekend to help with any disabled vehicles or crashes.”
Minnis said he had planned to have the traffic plan completed by July 20, but it was easier said than done.
“The most difficult thing in coordinating this has been all the speculation,” he said. “Everyone has taken their own spin on what’s going to happen. Everyone has gone for the worst that could happen. Of course, when you do planning of this magnitude, you always plan for the worst scenario that could happen, just to make sure you’re prepared for that.”
He added that all three agencies have worked as a team to coordinate the plan, and that the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office will also be helping out, although to a limited extent because the Shelbyville Horse Show also opens this week.
“We have worked hand in hand with everyone to make sure every I is dotted and every T is crossed,” he said. “The state police have been beneficial, and [Shelby County Sheriff] Mike Armstrong is doing what he can with the horse show going on.”
Minnis said that he is confident that everything will go well if everyone will exercise caution and have patience.
“I understand everybody’s concern,” he said. “We’re trying to work with the residents to make sure their everyday flow back and forth to their homes will not been impeded – we just need to have a little patience,” he said.
Outlet Shoppes of
the Bluegrass opening
VIP night:Tonight, 6-9 p.m., admission is by ticket only; tickets still available, includes coupon book
Grand Opening:Thursday, ribbon cutting and opening ceremonies start at 10 a.m.
Offsite parking:Available through Aug. 3 at the Shelby County Flea Market and the property across Veechdale Road from the mall