Highway Connections

State begins work on road
to connect Hwy. 42 to I-71

Gallatin residents credit Speedway
for  getting project started

By Don Ward

WARSAW, Ky. • For nearly a decade, industrial growth along the Ohio River in Carroll and Gallatin counties has increased the need for new roads to alleviate semi-truck traffic between I-71 and Hwy. 42. But it took the construction of a new auto racing track in 1999 to put the problem on Kentucky transportation officials' front burner.

Kentucky Gov. Paul E. Patton and Transportation Secretary James C. Codell III on Feb. 14 traveled to the Gallatin County courthouse to announce the state's plans to begin building a connector road between I-71 and Hwy. 42 near Markland Dam. They cited the need of providing relief for industrial truck traffic and to improve transportation for residents and tourists traveling to the Kentucky Speedway in nearby Sparta, Ky., and Belterra Casino Resort, just across the Ohio River in Florence, Ind.
Kentucky Speedway developer Jerry Carroll and Belterra General Manager John Spina, along with other officials from each venue, attended the media conference, where Patton called the new $35.8 million road project "a safer way of getting traffic out to I-71 without having to go through downtown Warsaw and Carrollton.
"Normally, funding a new road project like this is a long, drawn out process, but believe me, compared to other projects in the state of a similar nature, this project has moved extremely fast," Patton said. He cited recent economic development and the speedway as major factors. 
"Relative to other projects, this one will come to completion more rapidly than most because of the extreme need," he said.
The six-mile road project to be built southwest of KY 35 includes a new I-71 interchange just west of the Sparta exit, where the Kentucky Speedway is located. 
The connector road will be built in two stages, beginning this spring with construction of the first 11/2-mile stretch heading north from I-71 to the back side of the speedway.
This stretch is expected to be completed by May, in time to help move traffic in and out of the speedway this racing season, according to Mac Yowell, state highway engineer. Before that initial stretch is completed, the second phase will begin coming south from Hwy. 42, he said.
"We've already awarded the contracts on them. The work will begin on the first phase as soon as the weather permits," Yowell said.
The second phase of the connector road is expected to be open in May 2002, according to Codell. "The projects will connect the customers of the Commonwealth by providing safe and efficient travel, as well as provide access to current and future business in the county," he said.
In addition to the connector road and I-71 interchange, the shoulder of a three-mile stretch of northbound I-71 beginning at KY 35 will be widened along the inside lane. This $1.7 million project will begin as soon as the weather breaks and is expected to be completed in time for the NASCAR Busch race, scheduled for mid-June at the Kentucky Speedway. The wider shoulder will be used as a third lane to relieve traffic congestion before and after events at the speedway.
State road crews last June completed a $5.7 million road widening project of KY 35, beginning at the Sparta exit to the entrance of the Kentucky Speedway in time for the track's inaugural racing season.
Gallatin County Judge-Executive George Zubaty said promises for new roads were made as early as eight years ago when Gallatin Steel located on Hwy. 42 south of Warsaw. But now that Gallatin has become the third fastest-growing county in the state, transportation officials made the connector road a bigger priority.
"The race track made it happen faster," Zubaty said. "But it's also true that we have a tremendous amount of traffic coming from the plants along the river, and we needed some relief." 
"The governor talks as if this road project is going at break neck speed, but that must be dog years," said Ed Foley, president of the Gallatin County Chamber of Commerce. "The man who got this project done is Jerry Carroll."
Despite concerns from some county residents, Foley said most business owners welcome the new roads. He said county residents must find a way to capitalize on the speedway, casino and new roads or else others from outside the county will come in, buy up the land and profit from them instead by building restaurants and hotels.
 "Business people can see the opportunities, but there are some farmers who are not happy because they say it cuts off their property. What they don't realize is that their half-million dollar farm may now be worth $2 million."

Back to March 2001 Articles.



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