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Paris-Lexington Road (US 68)

Project Abstract

Reconstruction of the Paris-Lexington Road, commonly known as Paris Pike, entailed routing and designing an historic highway through the scenic landscape of Kentucky bluegrass country. Improvements to Paris Pike had been delayed for 27 years due to local concern for preserving the character of the heritage corridor. Jones & Jones devised a series of citizen task force meetings, property owner workshops, and monthly newsletters during the project which resulted in community ownership of a context-sensitive road design. As a leading model of place and community-based planning, the project helped spark the “context-sensitive solutions” highway design program now promoted by the Federal Highway Administration and state transportation agencies.



Paris Pike-Lexington Road (US 68):

-- Excerpt from Paris-Lexington Road (US 68) Submission Form --

CSS Principles


Gaining public acceptance was a crucial step in the design of this project. The design team devised a comprehensive series of Citizen Task Force meetings, property owner workshops, and monthly newsletters to encourage community involvement. Keys to successfully engaging residents throughout the design process included: understanding the landscape as a series of place units and working with people in these places since they shared similar concerns; communicating directly with individual property owners; displaying 3-D computer models of roadway designs; and using electronic polling to gauge stakeholders’ opinions concerning various road design issues. Community values and feedback were incorporated into the final design.

The highway design for Paris Pike is not typical. Much of the roadway is laid out on a continuous curvilinear alignment to blend with adjacent terrain features. North and south bound roads are bifurcated, moving independently of each other to create a variable width median. Large trees and rock fences are preserved relatively close to the roads, further lending to the separation and small scale rural-road feel of each road. Grass shoulders, timber guardrails, and stone veneer on headwalls and bridges were used to further integrate the new highway into the surrounding landscape. Although many of the design features for Paris Pike are atypical, the new highway meets state and federal design standards and did not require design exceptions or variances.

Community or Environmental Issues


Increased traffic volume and safety concerns drove the need to rebuild the existing two-lane Paris Pike as a four-lane divided highway.

Paris Pike is wholly contained within a 10,000-acre historic district eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Lined with historic rock fences, springhouses, large trees, and picturesque horse farms, the route is a popular part of any tour of the Bluegrass landscape. In 1973, a plan calling for a four-lane divided highway with a uniform forty-foot median was developed for Paris Pike. After many public debates over the impact the road would have on the corridor, a civil suit was filed in 1977, and an injunction halting the project was issued in 1979. After several more corridor studies and a series of fatal crashes in the mid-1980s, key participants developed a formal Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in 1993 outlining a basic vision for the corridor. As a result of the MOA, an Advisory Task Force was formed to help articulate this vision, and a new context sensitive design team led by Jones & Jones was selected.

Unique Challenges


A different approach to highway design was initiated, which sought to look at the landscape first and then determine how best to make the road fit the landscape. This approach was based upon the premise that the intrinsic natural landscape patterns found within the corridor could serve as a framework for addressing cultural, historic, scenic, natural, archaeological, and recreational resources. An understanding of the landscape patterns and resources in the corridor had a direct influence on the roadway’s geometry, grading, landscape concepts, and materials used for roadway structures and details. Fitting the road to the land required more than dodging sensitive areas and resources; it also required creating an alignment and cross-section that moves with and around the hilly terrain features rather than slicing through them. The resulting curvilinear alignment and rounded side slopes blend with the rolling topography to produce a road that is attractive, visually interesting, and safe to drive. This design approach resulted in considerably less cut and fill, significantly reducing earthwork costs. The new Paris Pike fits the physical landscape form and blends seamlessly into the region’s cultural context.

CSS Qualities: Process


Gaining public acceptance was a crucial step in the design of this project. The design team devised a comprehensive series of Citizen Task Force meetings, property owner workshops, and monthly newsletters to encourage community involvement. Keys to successfully engaging residents throughout the design process included: understanding the landscape as a series of place units and working with people in these places since they shared similar concerns; communicating directly with individual property owners; displaying 3-D computer models of roadway designs; and using electronic polling to gauge stakeholders’ opinions concerning various road design issues. Community values and feedback were incorporated into the final design.

The highway design for Paris Pike is not typical. Much of the roadway is laid out on a continuous curvilinear alignment to blend with adjacent terrain features. North and south bound roads are bifurcated, moving independently of each other to create a variable width median. Large trees and rock fences are preserved relatively close to the roads, further lending to the separation and small scale rural-road feel of each road. Grass shoulders, timber guardrails, and stone veneer on headwalls and bridges were used to further integrate the new highway into the surrounding landscape. Although many of the design features for Paris Pike are atypical, the new highway meets state and federal design standards and did not require design exceptions or variances.

CSS Qualities: Outcomes


Concerns over adverse impacts to the scenic and cultural landscape were averted. Many historic resources are unscathed and their setting preserved or restored. The highway remains a popular tourist route for the region.


Further Reading:
PDF Icon    Paris-Lexington Road (US 68) Submission Form


    
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