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Fender-benders on First

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By Tracy Harris

If you’ve ever been scared to turn left from Ky. 53 in La Grange, you’re not alone.

The half-mile stretch of road between Yager Avenue and New Moody Lane is admittedly dangerous — more than 100 vehicle crashes happened there in the past 12 months, according to police records.

Sometimes there are multiple accidents, like Aug. 3, when there were at least four just on Ky. 53 and several more on nearby side streets.

The crashes are mostly fender-benders, but they still cause damage and delay traffic.

Many crashes happen when a car turns into oncoming traffic — but there’s also a few side-swipe crashes. Vehicles attempt to go around another vehicle waiting to turn left — and in doing so, side-swipe a vehicle in the right-hand lane.

A number of wary residents avoid making those left-hand turns altogether by taking alternate routes, like cutting through the Washington Manor subdivision.

An overpass from Allen Lane across to New Moody Lane, set to open in 2015, will cut down on traffic on Ky. 53.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet plans to widen Allen lane and add the overpass with construction starting next year.

An even bigger project to widen Ky. 53 is still on the horizon, says Jim Urban, director of Oldham County Planning and Development.

The project started in 2005 to address the alarming number of crashes, Urban said. 

Despite plans idling for several years, Urban has pushed forward on design plans for the project recently and expects those plans to be complete within two months.

State funding for the project necessitates completing plans soon, he said.

The project would widen Ky. 53’s current four-lane area to include a turning lane at key intersections, Urban said.

Turning lanes will be added at Crystal Drive, Parker Drive, Yager Avenue Adams Street, Washington Street and Main Street.

However, a raised median will prevent left-hand turns into business driveways.

The median would help with traffic flow and prevent crashes — but it doesn’t make area business owners happy.

Business owners may impede the project’s next step, acquiring property for the widening.

Fred Tolsdorf, owner of Champion Chevrolet, said he’s against the proposal and believes other owners are, too.

Tolsdorf said he’ll lose valuable space along the road because of the widening.

And because many of his customers exit from I-71, they’ll have to figure out how to turn with the median obstructing his driveways.

Tolsdorf is planning a major renovation of his business that will also take up more of his lot, and he hopes to not lose more space to the widening.

He points out several nearby businesses don’t have space to spare, like the Marathon gas station and Car Biz dealership.

Tolsdorf said officials need to find another solution, including fixing existing issues.

“We need to work traffic through the intersection better,” he said. “The stoplights still aren’t timed right.”

Urban agrees the plans aren’t perfect.

“Even once the plans are done, we’re still working on those issues,” he said.

An estimated cost of the project is pending until design plans are complete.