SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky is studying an interstate-type bypass outside the Gene Snyder Freeway, a sweeping route that could someday cross six or seven counties as it connects Interstates 65 and 71.
The idea has alarmed some residents, particularly in Bullitt County, who are concerned about a new highway’s impact on the area. Officials with Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest say it and a proposed LG&E natural gas pipeline threaten land it owns.
But Bullitt County Judge-Executive Jerry Summers said in an interview this week that the road project isn’t at the top of the county’s wish list and cautioned that it’s “not really a plan. All it is is just a study.”
Summers, who was elected to the county’s top office last fall, said he is taking a wait-and-see approach to the bypass concept. Meanwhile, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is spending $1.9 million on a report expected this fall looking at three to four corridor options, as well as building no road at all.
A cabinet spokeswoman told WDRB News earlier this year that the study contemplates “wide, potential corridors, not specific roadway alignments.”
But HDR Engineering generally is evaluating an area that runs east from Shepherdsville and cuts between Mount Washington and Taylorsville, then moving north along the Shelby and Jefferson county line west of Simpsonville.
It would hug the Parklands of Floyds Fork in some areas and eventually join I-71 near La Grange, according to a preliminary map WDRB reviewed.
“The roadway project is downright scary,” Bernheim executive director Mark Wourms told WDRB News last month. “Because a roadway is big and wide and impactful and provides noise and pollution forever-- and so it’s yet another level of threat to Bernheim.”
Supporters of the bypass argue that it will be needed as the region grows and contend now is the time to begin planning.
Summers said he’s aware of residents who are upset about the proposed pipeline and bypass study. The bypass is a “possibility,” he said, although it may not be needed.
He pointed to last week’s announcement by state officials that they are combining four interstate projects in Jefferson and Oldham counties, part of an estimated $180 million construction venture that could be done by 2023.
That work includes widening the Snyder Freeway between I-71 and Taylorsville Road and rebuilding the I-64 interchange at the Snyder, along with adding new lanes to a section of I-71 between the Snyder and Crestwood.
Summers said those projects could help traffic flow and make a bypass unnecessary, as could current plans to widen I-65 between the Snyder and Lebanon Junction.
“When you look at what they’re doing, cleaning up 71, 64 and 265, it could end up being a moot point,” he said.
Meanwhile, in February Summers joined members of the Bullitt Fiscal Court and mayors of the county’s cities in submitting a “joint road plan” to the state. It listed Ky. 44, Ky. 61, Ky. 434 and areas around exits 112 and 121 as roads in “need of improvement.”
For now, Summers said, the proposed bypass doesn’t make the cut.
“If this road’s not needed, you won’t see me beating the drum for it. But if it is needed…I’ve just got to understand how it’s going to help our community.