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ISSUE: Expanding the roadways
OUR VIEW: It's a balancing act
Hardin County’s recent history has plenty of bright spots and growth is evident throughout our communities.
Elected officials hit the highlights at a recent Hardin County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Among those items, the Elizabethtown Metropolitan Statistical Area ranked in the top five for personal income growth in 2012 out of 366 MSAs.
Infrastructure projects are progressing in Vine Grove.
In Radcliff, an amphitheater, expansion of Saunders Spring Nature Preserve and new medical facilities are a boost to quality of life and more.
Delivering similar benefits in Elizabethtown, the Elizabethtown Sports Park and Hardin County Veterans Tribute opened last year.
In West Point, what Mayor Billy Ash said was the first housing development since the 1950s is under way.
And in multiple communities, what connects us all, our roads, are undergoing major expansions and improvements. For commuters, that’s immediately welcome news. Specifically, a path off the notorious U.S. 31W can’t come fast enough for some.
Ash noted that from West Point, the county’s northernmost community, turning toward Louisville is becoming more appealing than turning toward Elizabethtown. And if it’s true in West Point, it’s also probably true at Fort Knox, where the community derives much of its economic security.
The Elizabethtown to Radcliff Connector, E2RC for short, should be completed in another 18 months or so and is expected to dramatically relieve the congestion.
Other suggestions include building more turning lanes, decreasing the number of cuts into the median and better managing the number of access points.
With all road constructions benefits, it does present challenges, especially for small business owners.
Vine Grove Mayor Blake Proffitt reported the extension of Joe Prather Highway has diverted some traffic from that city. The E2RC will divert others.
There are concerns the E2RC will have the same effect on the heavily commercial U.S. 31W. For existing businesses, the potential for drive-by customers will decrease. Lesser known small businesses will face new marketing challenges and overall economic development could become more difficult. For example, traffic counts along U.S. 31W in northern Hardin County have fallen just short of the requirements of national outlets.
But lighter traffic has pros for business, too. Consider one simple example — lighter midday traffic could encourage more workers to venture out for lunch, patronizing local businesses and doubling their contribution to the Dixie traffic count.
Also, let’s not forget an easy commute is one of a small town’s greatest selling points and it needs to be addressed as Hardin County sells itself to any house hunters with jobs at Fort Knox.
Hiccupping through the miles of traffic lights from the center of Elizabethtown to the post gates is a lengthy chore, taking more than 45 minutes during the busy times of day. Those willing to drive 45 minutes have a lot of choices on where they want to live. If they choose somewhere else, such as Louisville, they won’t be putting much at all into Hardin County’s economy.
Additionally, U.S. 31W traffic is a documented safety issue.
Everyone with a stake in traffic, from the busy driver gripping the wheel, to the small business owner luring that driver off the road, needs to remember the community must strike a balance between commerce and convenience.
Hardin County generally has fared well in recent years and future opportunities are waiting. Let’s keep our focus, balancing all the while..
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.