Motorists traveling the northern stretch of U.S. 27 in Jessamine County are no stranger to traffic congestion, difficult-to-maneuver turnabouts and regular accidents caused by impatient drivers cutting across lanes of speeding vehicles.
But according to transportation-group manager Paul Slone from the Cincinnati-based URS Corporation, commuters may soon see significant relief in key intersections on U.S. 27 between the bypass and the Fayette¿County line.
URS has been commission by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet before and is “basically the on-call traffic engineering consultant” for the commonwealth, with Slone as the project manager.
The group’s main focus has been the traffic lights between Kohl’s Drive and Bradley Drive, Slone said. Currently, the signals stand roughly 550 feet apart, which at peak commuting hours can bring traffic to a dead stop. Part of the URS plan proposes moving the lights back to Industrial Parkway and retiming them, along with inserting the medians to prevent left turns. This would lengthen the signal lights to 1,330 feet.
In addition to doing a variety of trafficking engineering projects around the district, URS studies traffic patterns, reviews requests for various modifications and coordinates signal timing, Slone said. One of his more recent projects included working with the Nicholasville Main Street traffic lights for the streetscape project.
The newest project recommendation for Jessamine County is the U.S. 27 Access Management Plan, which was presented by Slone to the Nicholasville Planning Commission on Monday night.
“One thing that access management does very well is it streamlines the flow of traffic and helps balance the travel speeds between the traffic signals,” Slone said. “Now the signals will still pose a problem to traffic, stopping and starting, and that is where we have our other big problem — rear-end collisions.”
Slone said his group has targeted several areas that access management could alleviate stress by spacing out traffic signals and/or building a median at non-signal intersections.
The median would minimize or completely restrict left turns in or out of access points to businesses and residential areas along the corridor.
“The number-one reason is safety — that is one of the fundamental points behind access management,” Slone said. “The crashes that we see among the vehicles entering and exiting (are) 76 percent left turns. So the best way to improve the safety on our roadways is to take (left turns) out of the equation.”
At first the medians may seem like a restriction of access to certain locations, Slone said, but it will open up signal intersections to allow motorists, even the largest of transportation tucks, to turn back around to their final destination.
Part of the access plan is not only to space out traffic lights and raise medians but also widen the right turns in a circumference near an entry point of a business or residential area.
“There are some other benefits, including optimal efficiency of the roadway — you actually get a capacity bump, therefore putting off the immediate needs for more extensive widening, which makes this a very cost-effective project,” Slone said. “We’re looking at widening projects that are $4.5 million a mile to build. We don’t know exactly what this project is going to cost yet, but we’re betting it’s about half that.
“So when we look at the (transportation) cabinet’s (motto) of how to ‘do more with less,’ this type of project fits that model very well.”
In all, Slone presented several different types of medians they might implement once the finalization of the plans were ready.
“We’re looking at some recommendation to alternative intersection treatments to help improve the capacity of the intersection without making them very large and wide,” Slone said. “We don’t want every intersection along the corridor turning into another Man O’ War Boulevard or the next Brannon Crossing.”
Commissioner Burton Ladd asked if the new access-management plan would cripple the 55 mph speed limit already in place, but Slone assured him that this plan was designed to increase traffic flow, keep the current speed limit and improve safety.
At the end, Slone told the group he was confident this plan was going to be successful and they would be seeing the final draft on their desks soon.
“We have a long list of people and agencies that either approve or recommend this type of project,” Slone said. There are multiple Nicholasville and Jessamine County officials and (stakeholders) as well.”
Slone said he will presenting the same information to the Urban County Government Planning Commission on Thursday.
“Currently, they are just hammering out the details (of a memorandum of understanding), and a draft is floating around with the cabinet and the local bodies making their comments,” he said. “Hopefully, the whole thing will be tied up with a bow on it by May.”
The finalized project does not have a completion date or a price tag yet, but moving lights near Kohl’s Drive and Industrial Parkway is expected to be the first-priority project.
“The corridor will be better for it; the citizens will be better for it, the city ... motorists, everyone will be better for it,” Slone said.