A project designed to address deteriorating pavement and reduce collisions along the northern half of U.S. 31W in Elizabethtown is ready for construction.

Kentucky Transportation Ca­b­inet District 4 made the an­nounce­ment Monday. The ove­rall expected outcomes of the project, which will span from St. John Road to Hut­ch­er­son Road, are improved safety and efficiency gains.

To help do this, the project will feature the installation of R-Cut designs similar to three recently added in Radcliff.

R-Cut is short for Reduced Conflict U-Turn. The design is widely implemented in modern road configurations and is specifically suited to address issues where high traffic volumes are combined with a high density of intersections and entrances along a divided highway, said Mike Sewell of Gresham Smith, consultant with the project.

Sewell along with Paul Sanders, district chief engineer, presented the project Monday afternoon at an Elizabethtown City Council meeting.

Sanders said the project is set to begin next year with completion in 2022 and will be phased to minimize disruption to traffic and adjacent businesses.

“We want to try to minimize as much as we can,” he said.

The section north of Ring Road will be the first to be worked on, followed by the section between Ring Road and the bypass, and then the area from the bypass to St. John Road.

Sanders said the contract for the work in the amount of $13.54 million was awarded to Louisville Paving Company.

Originally constructed as a concrete surface in 1941, two lanes of U.S. 31W were widened to four in 1959. Additional lanes were constructed with a concrete surface while the two original lanes were overlaid with asphalt, Sewell said.

Over time, additional upgrades have been made, evolving to the current configuration. He said the upgrades were implemented as a trade-off between immediate needs and long-term maintenance.

From water drainage to snow plowing operations in winter, the corridor presents a unique set of maintenance challenges. According to the Cab­i­net’s news release, most of the current pavement issues are caused by continual expansion and retraction of concrete below the asphalt driving surface.

Over decades, the release said the answer has been to smooth the surface by doing shallow asphalt rehab projects. Afterwards, it only takes a seasonal change or two for the underlying issues to re-emerge as “road bumps.”

This project is meant to provide a longer solution in providing a higher quality driving surface.

Crashes also are a continued concern for the corridor.

Between 2013 and 2017, Sewell said there are 2,248 collisions recorded within the project area. Nine are listed as fatal crashes while 413 are listed as injury crashes. These incidents also negatively impact the local economy to an annual estimated total of $6.7 million, the release said. The figure considers emergency response, insurance, medical and property damage implications.

Sewell said the new project addresses crashes by reducing conflict points. While crashes cannot be eliminated, he said types of crashes can be directly correlated to severity.

When reviewing traffic history, Sewell said severe crashes are often listed as side or T-bone collisions. He said reduction of conflict points using R-Cut designs significantly minimizes the likelihood of these types of crashes. The R-Cuts require so-called J-turns as drivers reverse directions on the highway to reach their intended direction.

As construction schedules for the project become finalized, updates will be available through KYTC District 4 regular channels of communication and through the project website: us31w.org. The project website will contain more detailed descriptions.

To address several immediate pavement needs ahead of winter, Sanders said some temporary patch work, unrelated to the project, will take place this fall. These are maintenance procedures intended to sustain pavement surface integrity through degrading winter conditions such as freezing, thawing, salt treatment and plowing.

Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1741 or malford@thenewsenterprise.com.

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