County judges’ task force seeks improvements for Interstate 71

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By Drew Nichter

With millions of state tax dollars going to improve interstates 64 and 65 running into and out of Louisville, one group is asking: What about Interstate 71?

In recent years, stretches of I-64 and I-65 have been widened to six lanes to accommodate increased traffic.

That has the judge-executives of six counties along I-71 wondering when that road will get its due.

To get an answer, they’ve formed Kentucky Connected.

The self-described economic development group consists of judge-executives from Carroll, Gallatin, Henry, Oldham, Owen and Trimble counties.

The group, which has been meeting since late 2011, announced recently it has received funds from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to evalute the 78-mile stretch of I-71 between Louisville and I-75 in Boone County.

Louisville-based Qk4 Engineering and Planning is conducting a study for Kentucky Connected.

“I-71 seems to be the stepchild here that is not getting attention,” Oldham County Judge-Executive David Voegele said.

According to Kentucky Connected, 27,000 to 80,000 vehicles travel I-71 each day. Officials estimate as many as 31 percent of vehicles are tractor-trailers.

With that much traffic barreling up and down I-71 daily, the question is: How safe is Interstate 71?

According to Kentucky State Police, since 2010, there have been 3,004 crashes on I-71, 772 people injured and 17 fatalities.

In Oldham County, there have been 621 crashes along the interstate in the last three-plus years. Crashes injured 173 people and caused two fatalities.

Earlier this month a La Grange man died when his car crossed the median and was struck by a semi.

It is the latest in more than a dozen crossover crashes since 2010. All three fatalities in the Oldham County stretch of I-71 since 2010 are the result of vehicles crossing the median

While the Jefferson County stretch of I-71 has median cable barriers in the median, barriers end at the Oldham County line.

Andrea Clifford, District 5 spokesperson for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said cable barriers are planned in Oldham County from mile markers 15 to 17.5.

KYTC will receive contract bids beginning in July, Clifford said. Installation could start by late summer.

The final results of Qk4’s study will be revealed in December.

It will likely include recommendations for additional lanes, new interchanges and safety improvements, Voegele said.

Beyond that, Voegele said, is the matter of getting the necessary funds from the state legislature for the work to begin.

The Kentucky Connected study is meant to “let the state people know that we want this road improved to equal the improvements on 64 and 65,” Voegele said. “We deserve that, we need it and we’ll keep pushing until we get something.”

Kentucky Connected and Qk4 are soliciting input via an online survey, although only from businesses in the six-county region.

It is found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/I-71_industryquestionnaire.

Email us about this story at drew@oldhamera.com.