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What we think: Take this as a signal: No lights on bypass

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This is not the time to add traffic signals to the Shelbyville Bypass.

We are if nothing else consistent in our efforts to provide encouragement and guidance for the people who build and manage the roads in our county, and we’re not planning to stop.

And we feel that when the state Transportation Cabinet isn’t asking, that’s when engineers and officials are in the greatest need of our advice. So here’s today’s suggestion: Forget about placing more traffic signals on the Shelbyville Bypass.

A visitor to Shelbyville City Council last week stirred up that issue by making an impassioned plea to the council about this idea in the emotional aftermath of a serious accident involving one of his friends. He has promised to take his request to Shelby County Fiscal Court as well.

But other than writing their opinions to state officials – much like we do, though perhaps with more eye-catching letterhead – those two legislative bodies have no real control over this issue.

The Shelbyville Bypass – aka Freedom’s Way – is KY 55, a state road, and as was duly noted in the discussion at the city council meeting, the state decides such things as where traffic signals are placed and what speed limits should be. Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty did, however, promise to write a letter. Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger has said he sees that there could be problems.

But, as state officials have noted, much discussion and consideration went into the decision five or six years ago to place a signal only at the intersection with KY 53 (La Grange/Smithfield Road), right behind the middle and elementary schools, a high-traffic corridor. The only other true intersections – Midland Industrial Blvd., Harrington Mill Road and Burks Branch Road – would be controlled by stop signs for those entering the bypass.

Yes, there have been several accidents – one deadly, in the first months after the bypass opened in 2010 – but almost invariably it wasn’t road conditions but driver inattention that caused problems, with people running stop signs or doing other egregious actions to distract themselves (i.e. texting).

There have been suggestions that more traffic monitoring on the road might be in order, and others not only have questioned the need for more signals but also wondered if the paucity of traffic raised doubt about whether the $60 million should have been spent in the first place to build the road.

We’re not going that far – we think the road is an amazing benefit – but we also don’t want to see it curtailed by more signals at the other three intersections. The very purpose of a “bypass” is to divert traffic around a city, thus lowering congestion in our city. Installing more signals only “bypasses” that purpose.

We suggest that as drivers we all take greater care and as officials we allow the traffic load to mature before we make snap responses to emotional pleas.

Therefore, memo to state officials: You will get letters from others, but consider this our official note on the issue.