New I-64 ramp, new hazard

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Exiting traffic backs up; state mulls temp light

By Lisa King

The opening of the new KY 55 overpass at the Interstate 64 interchange has created a new safety issue that Shelby County lawmakers say requires attention.

The problem emerged when motorists using the eastbound exit ramp can’t make an immediate turn onto KY 55, backing up traffic during peak times onto I-64.

The single ramp replaces dedicated northbound and southbound exit ramps, meaning that all exiting traffic shares one ramp and one stop sign at KY 55.

“The most dangerous thing is when the traffic backs up on 64, and they’re at risk of being rear-ended on the interstate,” state Rep. Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville) said. “It’s also dangerous, if it’s a real busy time, trying to make that left hand turn, because it backs up.”

State Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) agreed with Montell that a temporary light is badly needed.

“If you’re eastbound on 64, getting off onto 55, it [a light] would be right there at 55,” he said, adding he is especially concerned about rush-hour traffic safety.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesperson Andrea Clifford said officials are considering installing a temporary traffic light on KY 55 at I-64 to help alleviate the congestion, but there are several complications.

“KYTC [Kentucky Transportation Cabinet] is reviewing this possibility,” she said.

Shelbyville Police spokesperson Kelly Cable said that no serious accidents have happened there, but he urged motorists to use caution because of the potential for that to happen.

“We’ve had a couple of fender benders there, nothing serious yet, but we just want people to keep their eyes open in that area,” he said.

Hornback said had spoken on Friday morning with project manager Chris Sloan and that Sloan said officials recognized the hazards of the situation.

“A permanent light is scheduled to go in there when they’re done; that’s been in the plans all along,” he said. “But the construction is probably going to take another year or so, and we need something in the interim, and that’s what we’re trying to work out.”

Clifford said installing a temporary light would present some difficulties, such as running power lines for a temporary signal, setting poles so that signal heads could be seen by motorists, ensuring that the poles would not be in the way of ongoing construction and negotiating a price with the contractor for installing such a signal.

“We do not have a timeline on when a decision will be made on this matter or how long installation would take if we decide to go this route,” Clifford said.

Hornback said he understands that just getting electricity for a temporary signal would not be easy.

“The problem is that in the original plan, they have to draw power from the north side of the interstate over to the south side,” he said. “To do that, they have to bore under the interstate, which they have not done yet, and they are not ready to do it yet, because if they do it now, it won’t be in the right place because of the construction they have to do. That’s the problem right there, and that’s what they will be talking about today.”

The construction at the interchange is part of the $37.5 million widening project will address not only that interchange but also the continued widening of I-64 to six lanes from where previous work ends just east of Simpsonville to Mile Marker 32.8. The remodeling includes lengthening all the entrance and exit ramps in addition to widening the overpass.

Louisville Paving Company was awarded the contract in 2012 for this project in the amount of $37.5 million. The project is scheduled to be completed by April 30, 2014.