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What we think: Danger remains on deadly ramp

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We can't let this outdated ramp become even more dangerous even while it is being replaced.

We’re relieved that state Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) has our collective backs when it comes to our safety during the reconstruction of the eastbound ramp onto Interstate 64 from KY 55. We fear that if Sen. Hornback weren’t vigilant that those of us who drive this ramp regularly or occasionally would be dealing for the next two years with even more danger than we have come to expect.

When construction workers started the widening process on this section of I-64 – an effort that eventually will lead to the replacement of this dangerous, 295-foot strip of asphalt about which we have been blowing horns and revving sirens for the past three years – they did what they were supposed to do: moved traffic lanes a bit to the right to allow them to work in the median area.

We had observed this process as it had extended west from Simpsonville and across the Jefferson County line, and the method to this madness is predictable and even reasonable.

That is, it’s reasonable at least until you come to this dangerously short acceleration lane that motorists must use to merge blindly and quickly into what is sometimes a very heavy flow of traffic.

There the construction process has made a lethal situation much, much more precarious. The right-hand traffic lane has encroached on that short merge lane, and the entire situation has become an exercise in vehicular claustrophobia.

Seeing that is why Sen. Hornback rode in on his white truck and started demanding that engineers open their eyes and see what was happening. He was persistent – as was state Rep. Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville) – and persuasive.

Engineers did take a second look and understood. They conjured up several solutions – including the completely unacceptable concept of closing the lane and requiring all eastbound traffic to maneuver through or around Shelbyville to return to I-64 – and decided to ease those traffic lanes back to their normal positions and to add some new striping and signs.

Those steps will help, but they won’t be sufficient, certainly not for two years. And we don’t want the specter of potential accidents hanging over this intersection for even two more days.

The situation has become so dire and fearful that some residents south of Shelbyville are choosing to access I-64 at Simpsonville rather than negotiate that ramp. Some also have made suggestions for fixes, including adopting a European approach of adding a traffic light before the ramp to allow the traffic to flow onto the highway. Some states also have railroad-type gates on ramps to control flow at peak times.

We have a bit of a simpler solution to add to the discussions:

Why not simply extend the merge lane east along the shoulder and next to the traffic lane? Some of those divider poles could be put inserted between the traffic lane and merge lane to ensure definition. The shoulder could provide length and a safer approach.

It would seem logical, given that shoulders are employed as traffic lanes and even as ramps at various times during these widening projects. Why not start now by helping to lengthen the acceleration lane?

Let’s be clear: No remedy will be acceptable until the interchange is totally rebuilt and the ramp/acceleration ramp have been built to proper specifications. Thankfully, that solution is coming soon.

But let’s not let a worsening situation fester while we grow. Let’s be aggressive about doing the best that we can to keep this area as safe as is humanly possible.

That’s what everyone wants, after all.