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I-69 / I-66 / I-65 Spur Corridor Study Completed

ky trans 300MADISONVILLE, Ky. (6/2/14) — The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has completed a study of the potential cost of updating the Audubon Parkway, U.S. 60, and the Natcher Parkway to current Interstate highway standards.

Completion of the Interstate 69 corridor, from Fulton to Henderson, is the cabinet’s main focus for Western Kentucky.“The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet remains committed to the completion of I-69 at Henderson, as has been planned for many years,” Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said.

But the study, by Palmer Engineering, of Winchester, Kentucky, explored what it would take to bring an “Interstate Spur” to Owensboro by attaining an “I-69 Spur” designation for the Audubon Parkway or an “I-66/I-65 Spur” designation for the Natcher Parkway.

The consultants evaluated existing conditions along the corridor, including safety and operation considerations; identified Interstate criteria deficiencies and developed cost estimates for improvements to reach Interstate compliance.

KYTC District 2 Chief District Engineer Kevin McClearn says like earlier studies of the Pennyrile Parkway, the Western Kentucky Parkway, and the Purchase Parkway, the report can provide direction for future efforts.

“This study gives an idea of what it would take to bring an ‘Interstate Spur’ to Owensboro,” McClearn said. “While we are still several years away from finishing out projects required for bringing some other parkways up to standards to obtain an I-69 designation, once that effort nears completion we will have this to provide direction for work that could be done along the Audubon or the Natcher Parkways, which already have official spur corridor status.”

The lengthy study presented a number of findings.

A list of identified deficiencies along the routes include:

  • Previous Toll Plaza Interchanges

  • Vertical alignment

  • Ramp length

  • Interchange spacing

  • Overpass clearance

  • Merge area length at interchanges

  • Bridge width

The consultant looked at three possible approaches, including a “no-build” option. The study also examined necessary upgrades and spot safety improvements, some of which would require the Federal Highway Administration to approve design exceptions and, finally, a fully compliant reconstruction addressing all issues without the need for exceptions or variances from FHWA.

Cost estimates in the study were expressed in today’s dollars. Measurably higher estimates could be expected by the time of construction.

For the 23.4 miles of the Audubon from Henderson to the U.S. 60 Interchange at Owensboro, it is estimated to cost $14 million to $15 million for basic upgrades required to attain an I-69 Spur designation. That is dependent on the Pennyrile Parkway being successfully upgraded to I-69 status on the west end of the Audubon and does not include any cost associated with rebuilding the Audubon/Pennyrile Parkway Interchange at Henderson.

Upgrading 72.2 miles of the Natcher Parkway from I-65 at Bowling Green to U.S. 60 at Owensboro to attain an I-65 Spur designation is estimated to cost $66 million to $76 million

Improvements to the Audubon and U.S. 60 to the Natcher Interchange at Owensboro are estimated at $66 million to $87 million – due in part to the necessity of reworking the Audubon/U.S. 60 Interchange at Owensboro, which would be costly.

The last option included 6.65 miles of U.S. 60 around Owensboro and 72.2 miles of the Natcher from Owensboro to Bowling Green. That was estimated to cost $117 million to $148 million, with upgrades to the Natcher/U.S. 60 Interchange a major part of that cost.

The consultant did not recommend trying to designate U.S. 60 as a spur. “The existing U.S. 60 and Natcher Parkway interchange is surrounded by residential development which will be greatly impacted with the necessary improvements to the interchange and U.S. 60 to meet interstate criteria,” the study said. “… It may be cost prohibitive to designate U.S. 60 as I-66/I-65 Spur of I-69 Spur.”

At the request of the Transportation Cabinet, the consultant added a separate review of U.S. 60 and U.S. 231 from the Natcher Parkway Interchange to the William Natcher Bridge as a change order to the spur studies. That study is also completed and placed on the KYTC website as a separate report.

The consultant found the William Natcher Bridge, which started carrying U.S. 231 traffic across the Ohio River in 2002, already meets minimum Interstate standards. However, the study noted there is a heavy cost to making 10.8 miles of U.S. 60 and 3.5 miles of U.S. 231 Interstate compliant from the Natcher Parkway to the bridge.

In a briefing to the Owensboro Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Board Thursday, McClearn, and Gary Sharpe, of Palmer Engineering, indicated that the cost for upgrading a 14.3-mile section of U.S. 60 and U.S. 231 from the Natcher Parkway Interchange to the Ohio River is estimated at $150 million to $250 million. The released study approximates it at $177 million. The greater cost per mile is due to intermittent, uncontrolled access points along the roadway. Such access is prohibited on Interstates.

McClearn noted a new interchange would be required at the intersection of U.S. 60 and U.S. 231 near the Bridge, adding substantial costs. Additionally, a heavy network of frontage roads would be required for affected businesses and residences due to the removal of direct access to the highway between the Natcher Parkway and the bridge.

Left completely unanswered – being outside the scope of the study – is the question of what would have to happen on the other side of the Ohio River.

Indiana, which is heavily invested in building I-69 from Evansville to Bloomington, would have to be willing to upgrade 22 miles of U.S. 231 from the William Natcher Bridge to I-64.

The study also noted that while the I-69 Spur and I-65 Spur are congressionally recognized as FHWA Corridors in Federal Law, the much talked about I-67 is not.

The I69/I-65 Spur Study has been posted to the KYTC website at http://transportation.ky.gov/Planning/Pages/Project-Details.aspx?Project=I-69, I-66/I-65 Spurs and US 60 Connection Strategic Planning Corridor Study. The I-67 Overview is available at http://transportation.ky.gov/Planning/Pages/Project-Details.aspx?Project=I-67 Corridor Overview.

SurfKY News
Information provided by Keith Todd

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