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Locust residents will have to contend with the hassles of added traffic for another couple of weeks, as state officials pushed back the opening of Hwy. 36 at the Locust Creek Bridge.
In interviews Monday, those living along the most-used detour — Locust, Fairview Ridge and Hunters Heights roads — told stories of motorists speeding, turning around and damaging their lawns, and running stop signs, with all pointing to the fact that their roads were not built for this type of traffic.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet engineers now believe it will be Labor Day before the project reaches the point where traffic can cross the new bridge and travel the realigned highway.
“It’s been rather trying at times during this road closure,” said Nancy Hicks, who lives at the intersection of Hunters Heights and Fairview Ridge roads.
Hicks said the detour has too much traffic on the road. And many of the motorists drive too fast.
Hicks has trouble getting out of her driveways on either Fairview Ridge or Hunter Heights, both because of the traffic volume and speed.
“All you can hope for is that they have good brakes,” she said.
Barbara Coghill, who lives at the intersection of West Prong Locust and Fairview Ridge roads, said people drive on these back roads as if it were Hwy. 36.
“We walk our dog in fear,” she said.
Drivers on the road see a straight stretch and pick up too much speed, plus they come over into the other driver’s lane, she said.
The majority of problem drivers have Indiana plates on their cars. “It’s out of state people,” she said. She said people who know the road or live in the area use more care.
Coghill has a message for these Indiana speeders. “If they want to run a race track, find another race track to run,” she said.
Danny Kinman, who lives near the intersection of West Prong Locust and Fairview Ridge roads believes traffic should never have been allowed to use the road as a detour for Hwy. 36.
Kinman said a stop sign was placed near that intersection, next to his barn. But that hasn’t helped. “They don’t even stop at that stop sign,” he said, saying they just go on through it.
While the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office has caught some of the people, Kinman said he understands that deputies can’t be up there all the time. He believes the traffic coming up Hunter’s Heights should be stopped and made to go around through Bedford.
West Prong Locust resident Jennifer Willhoite said many people drive too fast on the road. “They’re just speeding — no patience,” she said. “People are just not using good sense.”
And then there are others driving too slow, causing a lot of congestion, Willhoite said.
Willhoite has seen several semi tractor-trailers come up Locust Road and discover they cannot navigate it. She said she learned that some of them ended up there because their GPS systems were directing them to the road as a detour.
Kinman said he’s concerned about safety.
“I’m surprised somebody hasn’t gotten killed,” he said.
Hicks said she now pulls over on the narrow sections to let the traffic pass because she fears getting “run off the side of the road.” They go on by and then she goes on her way.
Willhoite agrees that some of the traffic allowed on the road is just too big.
Trucks, like duallys, create problems when they meet another vehicle in the areas where the road is narrow, she said.
“They create a little bit of conflict there,” Willhoite said.
Coghill said that despite the signs saying big trucks are not allowed on the road, she said an oil truck makes about four trips through Locust everyday.
“They’re not obeying that sign,” she said.
Kinman also worries about the school buses that travel the road. While it’s not new for them to make the trip, he said they have never had to deal with this kind of traffic.
All agree that Hwy. 36 can’t reopen soon enough.
“I’ll be tickled to death when it reopens,” Hicks said.
Willhoite agrees. “I will be very pleased when it reopens.”
Transportation officials say that likely not be until Labor Day.
KYTC District 6 spokeswoman Nancy Wood said the bridgethere is now 99 percent done. However, the project also includes a mile of roadway that is being realigned to remove a curve that has been the site of many accidents and several fatalities through the year.
Wood said Thursday that the road is only 60 percent complete.
“Unfortunately, the contractor, they are working but not giving us the timeline for completion,” Wood said. District engineers are adding another two weeks to the time based on the progress they see with the project, she said.
Wood said they now believe it will be the first of September before the new road will be ready to carry traffic. Other work will then be performed to finish the project after it reopens.
Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson was not happy to learn of more delays. “It’s very disappointing,” he said in a Friday interview.
While the county is not involved with the project — it is a KYTC contract — Tomlinson said he understands why people are frustrated. “They have a right to be upset,” he said.
Traveling the detours not only increases the time to travel between Carrollton and Milton, but it is also added expense for those who have to make the trip regularly, he said.
“I wish it was done,” he said. “It should have been.”
But Tomlinson said it is clear that someone higher up with the company performing the work has “made some bad decisions.” He added that he doesn’t blame the workers at the site because they are just doing what they are told to do.
At the fiscal court meeting Tuesday, Tomlinson said contractors have made some good progress on the project because of the good weather conditions. If Mother Nature holds it together a few more days this week, he said, a lot will get done this week, including some paving starting as early as Wednesday or Thursday.
“I’m not sure it will take to Labor Day to get the project done,” he said. But this will depend on several factors, including the weather, installation of guardrails and whether some work can be completed after it reopens or if it has to be done first.
Judy Construction Co. of Cynthiana received the $2.6 million contract for the bridge project and was suppose to complete the work by June 9 or face penalties.
To date, Wood said KYTC has assessed more than $200,000 in fines for failing to meet the schedule required under the contract. And the company continues to have penalties of $4,400 per day added to that sum, she said.
Tomlinson said he learned last week that a subcontract has been hired to help move the project along. He said Ohio Valley Asphalt will be handling the asphalt and gravel work there.
Damage to the
Willhoite, Coghill and Kinman all said the added traffic has damaged the roads they travel to get to their homes.
Willhoite said Locust and Fairview Ridge roads are showing a lot of damage. The state has made some fixes to help, adding some asphalt and cinders.
Coghill said the road is breaking off because it is too narrow for vehicles to pass and people pull on and off the edge.
“The road is breaking off at the edge … working its way to the middle,” she said.
Coghill said that once the Hwy. 36 project is done they will face detours as the state comes in to fix all of the damage to their roads. “They have to fix it,” she said.
Kinman said he believes it will take more than just patching and some gravel that won’t stay in the ruts. “They have destroyed the road,” he said.
Tomlinson said state officials have told him they will make repairs to those routes once the bridge replacement project is complete. But he expressed concern that it might be difficult to perform that needed work this year as the project pushes toward fall and winter weather.
Lost on the detour
All of the residents living on the detour around Locust interviewed agree people using the route do not know the road.
Hicks said a lot of people come up Hunters Heights and don’t know where to go when they reach Fairview Ridge Road.
“They don’t know whether to turn left or right,” she said. While she asked state officials to add a sign to help direct people to the left toward Locust, that never happened.
Instead, she has had to direct a lot of people who stop at her home and ask for help.
“I’ve got it down. Turn left. Turn left, then turn right,” she said.
Some others who were lost were not as considerate.
She said one driver turned the wrong way, then backed up and cut through the corner of her yard leaving a rut. Others have turned around and gotten on her lawn.
Coghill said motorists also use her driveway to turn around. She said her dog barks each time a stranger pulls in. She looked out one day and someone backed up into her grass off her driveway to turn around, leaving tire marks in her yard.
Kinman has not had any property damage, but has seen a lot of people turnaround in his barnyard.