Along with the rapid growth of business, retail and residential development in the Kentucky Highway 54 corridor comes a significant increase in the volume of traffic. Through a collaboration of state and federal funding, the project focused on widening Highway 54 has been in the works for some time, but with the inclusion of $5 million in Federal Highway Administration funds, this project can maintain its momentum in moving forward.
According to City Manager Nate Pagan, a combined total of $15 million in federal and state funds have allowed the right-of-way acquisition phase–formerly a state project–to proceed as both a state and federal project.
As residents continue to use Highway 54 for a number of purposes and services, it’s become clear to the community, as well as the local, state and federal government, that something must change for the future of Owensboro’s east side.
“The main purpose [of the widening project] is to improve traffic flow and safety in that area,” said Keith Todd, Public Information Officer for Districts 1 and 2 of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
Todd added that the surge of economic development across Highway 54 has added to the traffic congestion issue — in turn, Todd says the issue could potentially become worse in that businesses are drawn to areas of high traffic when considering where to build a permanent location.
“With the growth of businesses in that area, the volume of traffic has grown steadily,” Todd said.
According to statistics from traffic count data, Highway 54 on the eastern edge of the U.S. 60 interchange deals with the highest volume of traffic across the entire county. On average, 32,600 cars per day drive through that strip of the city. With Daviess County’s population totaling a little over 100,000, Todd says 32,600 cars per day is a significant amount of traffic being pushed through one specific area.
“Anytime you get up above 30,000 per day, you’ve got some serious numbers,” Todd said.
In comparison to these numbers, other areas of Owensboro and Daviess County don’t see nearly the same amount of traffic. Frederica Street on Owensboro’s side of U.S. 60 sees 19,538 cars per day, while West Parrish Avenue on the outer side of US-60 West and near KY 81 sees 12,855 cars per day. The area near Highway 60 and the Audubon Parkway sees 19,460 cars per day.
While there isn’t a direct timeframe for the widening project as of yet, Todd says it will be up to state legislatures to decide when to officiate the details.
“Our original, tentative plan was to go to construction in 2024. During the next legislative session, they should make a schedule for the next road plan,” Todd said. He added that if things go according to the initial plan, construction would take between one and two years to complete.
Pagan says that in the original plan, the project was compartmentalized into four segments, each of them focusing on a specific area of Highway 54.
Segment 1 will focus on widening the area from the former bypass to Thoroughbred East by incorporating three lanes of traffic going each direction.
Segment 2 will focus on Thoroughbred East through Thruston-Dermont Road, making it five lanes with a turn lane.
Segment 3 will widen the area between Thruston-Dermont Road and Countryside Drive by constructing a 3-lane road with a curb, gutters and center turning lane.
Lastly, Segment 4 will involve widening the area between Countryside Drive to Jack Hinton Road in Philpot. The final segment’s construction will include 8-foot paved shoulders and turning lanes at strategically placed intersections.
Pagan also said that a pedestrian walkway would be constructed in the area between the former bypass and Country Heights Elementary School. Eventually, Pagan said, this walkway will be connected to the Adkisson Greenbelt, but nothing has been designed at this point.