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Kentucky Proposed I-66

Project Abstract

In 1997, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) completed a study that concluded that the Southern Kentucky Corridor (I-66) was feasible. The Somerset to London segment of the I-66 corridor is home to many natural, scenic, and sensitive areas. It had two existing linkages both which experienced safety and emerging traffic operational problems typical for their age and design characteristics. While many citizens favored improving KY 192 or at least supported the concept of constructing I-66, there was considerable opposition to the KYTC identified preferred corridor based on concerns with the environmental impacts along the corridor. Based on this opposition, KYTC acknowledged the need to reexamine the criteria and process that led them to identify the initially preferred alternative. Through the new alternatives development process and active stakeholder engagement, KYTC staff ultimately determined that an overall better alignment solution was available. In some respects the project is one of the reasons Kentucky has not only embraced Thinking Beyond the Pavement and Context Sensitive Design but has become a leader.



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Setting In 1997, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) completed a study that concluded that the Southern Kentucky Corridor (I-66), previously identified as part of a priority corridor in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) was feasible. The longer corridor was subdivided into segments with independent utility. The segment from Somerset to London was identified as a high priority corridor in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). The Somerset to London segment of I-66 would provide an interstate-level connection between the Daniel Boone Parkway to the east and the Louis B. Nunn (Cumberland) Parkway to the west. There are two existing linkages, KY 80 and KY 192. KY 80, to the northern side of the study area, consists of two- and four-lane sections and has only partial access control. KY 192, to the southern side of the study area, is an older two-lane highway with two nine-foot-wide lanes and two-foot shoulders. Both existing linkages experience both safety and emerging traffic operational problems typical for their age and design characteristics. Twenty eight percent of the mileage along KY 80 is considered to be "high accident" mileage, and fully 59 percent of KY 192 similarly high accident mileage. Existing traffic volumes are highly variable along both routes but are forecast to increase from 100 to 200 percent over the next 30 years. Current traffic operates at level of service (LOS) B to C, but will decline to LOS D/E/F conditions by 2030 if no action is taken in the Somerset to London segment. The study area is home to many natural, scenic, and sensitive areas such as the Daniel Boone National Forest, the state designated wild river portion of Rockcastle River, Cane Creek Wildlife Management Area, Laurel River Lake, Lake Cumberland, Cumberland Falls State Park, General Burnside State Park, Levi Jackson State Park, and the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail. These are areas of scenic beauty and biodiversity with numerous blue-line streams, natural wetlands, and, throughout the western portion of the study area, an extensive cave system. In June 1999, KYTC presented an initially preferred corridor at public meetings in the two communities. An alternative that largely followed existing KY 192 was presented as the preferred alternative. Generalized corridors north and to the middle of the study area had been considered by KYTC staff but not carried forward. The southerly location of KY 192 offers the advantage of not crossing the wild river portion of Rockcastle River, of having less adjacent development that would require either acquisition or access roads, and of providing more accessibility to the tourism and recreation areas important to the region's economy. While many citizens who attended the public meetings favored improving KY 192 or at least supported the concept of constructing I-66, there was considerable opposition to the KYTC identified preferred corridor based on concerns with the environmental impacts along the corridor. Approximately two-thirds of those responding favored I-66 but about half of those responding identified an alternative other than KYTC's initially preferred alternative.
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