Highway construction projects totaling $32.7 million in two high-traffic areas of Warren County are intended to reduce bottlenecks and allow commuters quicker access to Interstate 65 and U.S. 31-W.
About 50,000 vehicles daily traverse I-65 in the Bowling Green area and quite a few of those are commercial vehicles, almost half, said Keirsten Jaggers, public information officer for Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 3 of Bowling Green.
That crush of truck traffic – 45 to 50 percent of all vehicles – is traveling an interstate that was only designed for 12 percent truck traffic.
The vulnerability of the interstate – which stretches from Chicago to Alabama – has been pointed out in recent weeks as three accidents since May 13 have shut down the northbound lanes, causing traffic to be rerouted along U.S. 31-W.
One of the accidents occurred just south of Bowling Green at the 19.5 mile marker, when a commercial vehicle and two other vehicles collided, resulting in two deaths. The other two closures of the interstate were north of Bowling Green.
Kentucky State Police rerouted northbound traffic onto U.S. 31-W in each case.
There have been discussions over the years about a beltway to loop Bowling Green or a new Interstate 66 to take away some of the traffic load on I-65. However, the money isn’t there right now to finance such expensive projects.
While the money lag keeps major highway additions on the drawing boards, the amount of traffic grows.
A 2009 traffic count – most recent on record – shows 32,700 vehicles traveled U.S. 231/Scottsville Road at the interchange with I-65. That number has increased, Jaggers said.
In separate traffic surveys, 20,100 vehicles in 2010 traveled U.S. 31-W/Nashville Road between the William H. Natcher Parkway and Dillard Road just south of Memphis Junction, while in 2011, 10,300 vehicles traveled the same route just north of Kentucky Route 242, Jaggers said.
To meet the needs of the traffic crush in the two areas, a two-pronged highway construction approach was developed. The establishment of a $19.8 million single-point urban interchange, or SPUI, at Scottsville Road/I-65, due to be completed by the end of this year, weather permitting, is one part of that two-pronged approach.
The SPUI will replace the two separate bridges along Scottsville Road that eventually through off ramps fed traffic to the northbound and southbound lanes of I-65. Commuters can see the large construction cranes along one of Bowling Green’s busiest thoroughfares as it makes its way south toward Alvaton. What is being built is a 225-foot-wide deck that will allow opposing left turns to proceed simultaneously. “It brings all the vehicles coming from each leg to the top of the deck,” Jaggers said. The bridge itself will contain three lanes in each direction.
Work also is progressing on the widening of U.S. 31-W between the Natcher Parkway and Dillard Road. The $12.9 million project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2013.
Jaggers said the two projects, along with the two-mile extension of the Natcher Parkway that opened last fall, are all designed to be “release valves” for the traffic pressure. The Natcher extension now allows residents in Alvaton and along Plano Road to skirt the heavy traffic of Scottsville Road.
Jaggers said the installation of the 50-inch-tall concrete barrier along I-65 has also helped with safety, containing accidents in either the northbound or southbound lanes, but not allowing the vehicles to cross all the lanes of the highway.
Barriers are planned for two sections of I-65 – at the Louie B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway and at Park City to replace the old cable barriers. Eventually, she said, I-65 will be widened all the way north to Elizabethtown.