“A second look at 25E changes”

Planned Cumberland Gap Parkway reconstruction called ‘a good project’

TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

CORBIN — By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer

For those who missed the first meeting in October, the public got a second chance Monday to view the planned reconstruction of U.S. 25E on the north end of Corbin.

About 50 persons showed up at the public meeting, held in the Parkway Ministries building on 25E, also known as the Cumberland Gap Parkway.

Officials with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s (KYTC) District 11 Office in Manchester and their design team members said the project would provide safe, efficient and reliable driving along a section of 25E in Knox and Laurel counties. The proposed improvements would improve access, reduce collisions and congestion, and take care of traffic capacity to handle growth in the future.

“I’m proud of this project. Safety is a big problem on this corridor. … I feel like anybody who travels this corridor feels like it needs improvements,” said Phillip Howard, the Project Manager from KYTC’s District 11 Office.

The planned project involves a stretch of 25E that would begin in Laurel County at Ky. 770 over the Corbin City Reservoir, go east under Exit 29 of I-75, continue into Knox County and end at the Corbin Bypass (Ky. 3041).

In the state General Assembly’s Enacted Highway Plan for 2012, the project’s funding was budgeted for a total of $20.9 million for right of way, utilities and construction through Fiscal Years 2014-2017. Of that amount, $11.1 is for work in Laurel County, with the remaining $9.8 million for work in Knox County.

The meeting gave those attending a chance to see detailed aerial maps of the project, and ask questions and make suggestions to the design team.

“The question we’re asking is where do people perceive problems in the corridor area? You folks are our best resource, we want to design a project for you. … We’re asking you, ‘Where are the problems?’ and ‘What do we need to do?’… We’re trying to anticipate where growth will be in the next 20-25 years, and it’s gotten to a point where we have to address the entire corridor,” Municipal Engineering consultant Brad Gregory told the audience.

Along with the state Transportation Cabinet, design team members included representatives from Municipal Engineering Company of Frankfort — the lead design company, HMB Professional Engineers — who are working on environmental issues, and CDM Smith — who is involved in what’s called “traffic modeling.”

Howard noted the particular stretch of 25E being considered for reconstruction is used by both local traffic and regional travelers. He added that because traffic levels have returned to previous levels that the road had before the Corbin Bypass was built, and the growth the area has received in recent years, it’s time to take a look at the road’s reconstruction.

“The challenge for us is we’re trying to do different things. To design a road for people who are traveling off I-75 and going somewhere else, for local traffic who use the road every day, and for property owners who could be affected by the project. … with the work done on the Cumberland Gap Tunnel and over in Tazewell, Tennessee, a lot of traffic uses this road. U.S. 25E is a major corridor,” he said.

Officials said after the meeting that “somewhere around 100” parcels of land were affected by the project, but that the figures were in the preliminary stage.

Among those helping out on making suggestions is a Citizen Advisory Group, made up of community members, property owners and local officials.

Gregory and Howard said 15-20 persons were in the group, which included Corbin City Commissioners Bruce Hodge and Ed Tye, Mayor Willard McBurney, Corbin City Manager Marlon Sams and landowner John Bill Keck.

“We’ve already met one time. We use this group as a sounding board. We draw up a few plans, ask them their opinions, they give us suggestions, and we refine our plans. The Citizens Advisory Group is a conduit for us, and we can receive good comments from them,” Gregory pointed out.

Two more Citizens Advisory Group meetings are planned in the future.

Similar to the first public meeting, those attending were asked for information about the area affected by the project, and to fill it out to them on a questionnaire sheet. In addition to the questions about traffic, safety and access concerns, some of the types of information included if there were oil and gas wells, hazardous waste sites, unmarked cemeteries, underground tanks, wetlands, historic structures, and localized flooding in the area.

Once design alternatives are developed, another public meeting will be held. Gregory said the next public meeting will probably also be held at the Parkway Ministries building, because of its size, location and availability by the church.

- See more at: http://www.thetimestribune.com/local/x1005127728/A-second-look-at-25E-changes#sthash.FyZeL133.X5lDFDGo.dpuf

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