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Remove brakes and start I-64 project

My Opinion
Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, Editor

Life is a highway, at least that’s what Tom Cochrane says, and I have to agree with him. That’s why it’s important that Harrison County officials and residents keep pushing for the new Interstate 64 interchange project that is proposed west of Corydon.
Anyone who travels S.R. 135 between Quarry Road to the north and Landmark Avenue to the south know how busy that stretch of highway can be, especially at peak times, like morning and evening rush hours, as well as during the noon hour. That’s because it’s the main north-south thoroughfare for the county.
But, have you ever had to sit at the traffic signal at Landmark and S.R. 135 through more than one cycle or had drivers run red lights so they wouldn’t have to wait through another rotation? Sometimes it feels like a highway going nowhere.
Sure, there are motorists who use the I-64 interchanges at Georgetown and Lanesville from their homes in Harrison County, but the majority of the county is best served by the existing Corydon interchange.
Since the Interstate Highway System was created by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, traveling by ground has become much easier. One advantage of the interstate system has been to keep over-the-road haulers out of populated areas.
The opening of I-64 between Louisville and St. Louis was completed in late 1976, turning Harrison County into a bedroom community for the Derby City and made going ‘uptown’ for entertainment, dining and shopping a breeze. And made it easier for city folks to visit the country.
But, the ease of getting from one place to another also has added to an influx of people who now call Harrison County home, thus putting more motorists on our highways. And with more drivers comes an increased risk for crashes.
At least 10 years ago, discussions began about a second interchange for Corydon. The movement, which has been non-partisan, was so profound that the county spent $400,000 to secure more than $9 million in federal funds before the project stalled. The consensus among county officials would place the new interchange about 2.3 miles west of S.R. 135, with access to S.R. 337 near Quarry Road to the north and S.R. 62 to the south.
As Harrison County continues to grow (it’s been in the top 10 of the fastest growing counties in the state for a number of years), the traffic situation is only going to get worse.
And, can you imagine the nightmare that would be created if the I-64 overpass in Corydon had to be closed for any length of time?
After talking with Kevin Russel, the county’s engineer, and others, I’m convinced this interchange would do several things, including:
‘Reduce the congestion on S.R. 135 near I-64.
‘Provide a more suitable route for tractor-trailer traffic to and from the industrial park.
‘Provide ambulance crews from Harrison County Hospital needing to go west on I-64 a less congested route of travel, thus putting themselves as well as other motorists at less of a risk.
‘Provide a quicker route of travel for anyone heading to the hospital from the interstate.
‘Provide jobs, at least temporarily during the construction project.
It could also bring more businesses to the area, which, because they would be located in the South Harrison Community School Corp. district, would add to the assessed valuation of the district, thus help lower property taxes for residents.
Construction costs are not likely to decrease. Asphalt cost about $20 a ton when the proposed project was first discussed; now, it’s about $60 per ton.
But the most important outcome of a new interchange would be public safety. Traffic counts in the vicinity of the current interchange exceed 40,000 vehicles per day.
The majority of us don’t care for change, and few of us relish giving up something of ours for others. However, the proposed location affects few while providing a much needed improvement to thousands.
We’ve invested a good chunk of change on this project already and have secured a large portion of the needed funds. It’s time to remove the brakes on this project and actually go somewhere with it.