Taking on traffic

I-71 road overpass project
planned to alleviate
La Grange congestion

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (August 2006) – With the flow of everyday traffic through La Grange increasing rapidly, plans are being sought to alleviate any unwanted traffic problems that may result as an extension of the city’s unceasing economic growth. One solution is to construct an overpass to draw some of the traffic off of Hwy. 53.

I-71 Overpass

Photo by Don Ward

A new overpass is expected
to ease congestion at Hwy. 53
and I-71 interchange, where
traffic backs up regularly.

A proposed I-71 overpass project would begin at Allen Lane in Commerce Parkway and go south to New Moody Lane. Improvements would occur in the form of additional lanes at the intersection of Hwy. 53 and New Moody Lane.
Joe Schoenbaechler, Oldham County Economic Development Authority, said a committee made up of representatives from the county judges’ office was formed to select a consultant for this project. The consulting firm of DLZ of Frankfort, Ky., was chosen to conduct a field survey for this project.
With more than 85 years of service, DLZ has more than 600 employees at 18 office locations throughout the Midwest and Massachusetts, according to company officials. Formerly known as Brighton A&E, the company in 2004 became a subsidiary of DLZ Corp.
DLZ was instrumental in the McAlpine Locks and Dam Bridge Project in Louisville. This project included construction of a new parallel 1,200-foot lock chamber to match the existing lock chamber. DLZ designed the bridge and provided further engineering services during the construction phase.
Plans for the I-71 overpass project were stated in the master plan for Commerce Parkway and approved one year ago, said Schoenbaechler. The original plans called for an interchange but this would have been too close to Exit 22 and Hwy. 53.
Plans call for moving forward as quickly as possible with the overpass project. A total of $15 million has been earmarked for design and construction. State Sen. Ernie Harris backed this project.
“It is essential to get it built. It will ultimately relieve the Hwy 53 congestion,” he said. Not only will it provide a direct access to Commerce Parkway but also open up the entire 1,000 acres.
With the Rawlings Corp. locating in the Parkway, there will be an estimated 750 to 900 people traveling to and from Commerce Parkway everyday, said Harris. This will cause more traffic problems along Hwy 53.
Harris said he hopes to get the overpass project contracted within the next two years and build it quickly. “Our goal is to award a contract this budget cycle,” he said.
Harris said he has been surprised at how little the community knows about the planned I-71 overpass project. “I don’t think they know how important it was to get it in the (Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s) Six-Year budget plan.” The Economic and Transportation Depart-ments, and representatives of the Greater Louisville Chamber of Commerce saw a need for this overpass, he said.
“The funding is there,” said Harris. “That was the last hurdle to climb.”
In the Six-Year budget plan (for years 2006-2012) funding was authorized for several stages, said Andrea Clifford, Public Information Officer for the Louisville office of the Kentucky Transportation Depart-ment. “Oldham County is taking the lead on this project,” said Clifford.
The county must hire a consultant and see to other details of the project phases. Through a memorandum of agreement, the Transportation Department will reimburse some of the funding, said Clifford.
Scheduling can change at this point due to a number of factors, since this project is in the early stage. State funding for the fiscal year 2007 includes $2 million; right-of-way scheduling includes $1 million for 2008; utilities relocation is budgeted at $1 million for 2008; and construction is slated to cost $11 million for 2008.
The main advantage to this project is in creating an alternate route for motorists, said Schoenbaechler. His goal is “to make people see the good in a 1,000 acre development.” Schoenbaech-ler is referring to the 1,000-acre business park, Commerce Parkway.
Traffic studies and a La Grange Beautification study will be done to see how to best enhance the area, he said. Community input is sought in the design of this project.
“Our project stops at Commerce Parkway,” said Schoenbaechler. A second, separate project will involve reworking of a one-mile stretch of Hwy. 53 from I-71 to Main Street.

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