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Stuck in line? Not for long

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

Motorists sitting in long lines on U.S. 421 soon will see some relief.

Thanks to a set of perfect circumstances, turn lanes will be installed in front of the schools.

Construction on two turn lanes — one into each entrance to the schools — is slated for this summer.

Henry County Public Schools Superintendent Tim Abrams said he was excited about the project, which is something the district has sought for several years.

“I think it will greatly enhance safety in front of the high school, and it will improve traffic immensely both in the morning and afternoon,” he said. Additionally, the project should be completed around the same time as most of the high school renovation.

Just about anyone who has traveled U.S. 421 has experienced the log-jam. Between 8 and 8:30 a.m., traffic in the south-bound lane of U.S. 421 in front of the schools backs up toward New Castle. It does so again at the end of the school day.

Among the many who have been stuck in that line is Representative Rick Rand. “That’s the way I go when I go to Frankfort, and I can’t tell you how many times I get backed up halfway to New Castle,” he said.

The traffic backs up on the two-lane road as cars and buses wait to turn into one of two driveways into the schools. Without a turn lane, it creates a backlog that can extend into New Castle City limits.

Rand receives a lot of calls about the issue every year, and said when he visits the high school, it’s a big question.

After years of complaints, the situation may finally be remedied this summer.

During a recent Henry County Fiscal Court meeting, Henry County Judge-Executive John Logan Brent announced that a project to expand the road slightly and add a turn lane could be completed this summer.

Brent approached Rand and State Senator Ernie Harris during a Frankfort visit earlier this year about the possibility of getting a turn lane in front of the schools. Roughly two weeks later, Rand called Brent and said funding would be available in the state budget for several projects — provided the projects were less than $250,000 — and asked for an estimate within 24 hours. Brent worked with the Kentucky Transportation Department’s fifth district engineers, and had the estimate Rand requested, with the final estimate at just under $200,000.

Two weeks later, Brent received a letter saying the project was good to go, and could be completed this summer.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a project go from conception to funding and, hopefully, fruition in six months,” he said.

The timing and need for the project combined for its speedy approval. With Rand on the House Appropriations Committee, he had increased influence over the budgeting process.

Rand said funding is set aside for similar projects every year.

Rand said it helps, too, that the state owns a “large chunk of right of way,” and “we don’t have to spend a lot of extra money other than expanding the road.”

 

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