The Mercer County Bypass provides an alternative route east of Harrodsburg, while simultaneously opening-up new land for housing, retail and industry development to serve the future growth.
Project Type:Bypass Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:22,294 Length (mi):4.90
Economic Distress:1.93 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):86 Population Growth Rate (%):0.75
Employment Growth Rate (%):0.78 Market Size:40,076 Airport Travel Distance:37.7333 Topography:14
Region:Southeast State:KY County:Mercer
City:N/A Urban/Class Level:Rural Local Area:Harrodsburg
Impact Area:County Transportation System:Highway GIS Lat/Long:37.760097 / -84.822155
Initial Study Date:1969 Post Constr. Study Date:1999
Constr. Start Date:1998 Constr. End Date:2001
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 2001 Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):18,700,000 Actual Cost (curr $):23,380,756
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
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The Mercer County Bypass provides an alternative route to US 127 east of the congested center of Harrodsburg, KY. The bypass provided access to undeveloped land for future housing, retail and industrial development. To date, lack of water and sewer facilities along the bypass has constrained land development and economic growth. While the City and the County are partnering to provide supporting infrastructure, many residents still believe a western bypass would have better served the transportation and economic development associated with a new hospital, school and other industry occurring west of the city center. The bypass has successfully attracted traffic from a limestone quarry, effectively diverting trucks from the city center. State highway officials are currently evaluating an alignment for a connecting inner-west bypass that would connect to the existing Mercer County Bypass.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
Harrodsburg in Mercer County, KY is situated approximately 35 miles southwest of Lexington, KY and 80 miles southeast of Louisville, KY. Located in the Blue Grass Area Development District of KY, Harrodsburg falls under the jurisdiction of the State Highway District 7. The Mercer County Bypass reroutes US 127, a major north-south route for through traffic in Central Kentucky, around the city of Harrodsburg. US 127 enters Kentucky from Tennessee at Static and passes through Albany, Jamestown, Russell Springs, Liberty, Danville, Harrodsburg, Lawrenceburg, Frankfort, Owenton, and Glencoe before crossing into Ohio at the C&0 Bridge in Covington.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
Harrodsburg is the oldest permanent English settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains. Located in the Bluegrass Region of Central Kentucky, Harrodsburg is the Mercer County seat and has a land area of 250 square miles with a gently rolling to hilly topography.
New and/or expanded land uses along major thoroughfares inhibit many US and State highways from facilitating through traffic, especially large trucks. This was a key factor driving the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's interest in building a bypass around Harrodsburg. The US 127 dual service in Harrodsburg worked reasonably well given moderate traffic volumes and scattered development, but resulted in increased congestion and delays as development concentrated downtown and traffic volumes increased. A railroad crossing with approximately 27-daily trains further interfered with through traffic.
The bypass was built to address four major objectives. First, recognizing that land development and traffic was spreading out, local community leaders lobbied for an alternate bypass route to serve the through traffic. Second, a grade separated interchange was needed to avoid the congestion associated with trains operating on the Southern Railway. Third, officials wished to tie the bypass into the Industrial Park on the north-end of Harrodsburg. Lastly, to the project would eliminate many of the commute trips from the Central Business District.
The constructed inner-eastern bypass alternative was one of four alternatives. The others include an inner-western bypass, as well as an outer-eastern and outer-western bypass. While the outer bypass alternatives were seen as future development scenarios to accommodate long-term growth, the two inner bypass alternatives were seen as present-day alternatives to address the city-center congestion issues. The intent was to build one of the inner-alternatives first and to build the other 10-20 years later. Currently, the KYTC is evaluating development of the western bypass loop. As planned in the original analyses, the eastern bypass is planned to tie into the eastern existing bypass section. The US-127 Bypass concept was studied in the early 1980's, which led to an "Advanced Planning Report" in March 1991. Originally estimated at $14.0 million in 1990, the 4.9 mile bypass ultimately cost $18.7 million by its completion, and opened in 2001.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
The Mercer County Bypass has eliminated thru-truck traffic from the Harrodsburg city center, greatly ameliorating the congestion associated with industry shift changes, school traffic and other distinct peak-period traffic. Excluding such peak-periods, travel time through the city center is approximately the same as that via the bypass.
Apparently, the constructed inner-eastern alternative was not originally perceived as the best alternative from a transportation flow or an economic development perspective by many local residents, because the new school, hospital and other commercial and industrial development were growing. Such growth west of the Harrodsburg city center continues today. Further, while much through truck traffic use the bypass, many through trips via personal vehicles continue to travel through the city center.
The Mercer County Bypass does provide critical access for a limestone quarry at the intersection of KY-152 and US 127. A significant portion of the quarry's truck traffic entering the bypass travels approximately a mile before exiting northeast on US-68 towards Lexington (approximately 40 miles). Without the bypass, the limestone laden vehicles would have traveled through the city center, causing congestion and creating safety concerns.
Additionally, the bypass facilitates inter-regional commutes. Many local residents drive to State jobs in Frankfort, while many other non-Harrodsburg residents commute to Harrodsburg jobs. The above-grade rail crossing along the inner-east bypass has significantly reduced the congestion effects of traffic backup in the downtown area by providing an alternative, especially to through traffic
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
With little development along the eastern bypass, no notable land-use changes have yet occurred because of the project. Conversely, the pre-bypass development west of town has continued. A primary reason commercial development has been constrained along the inner-east bypass is due to the lack of corresponding water and sewer facilities. The County and City have partnered to expand water and sewer facilities for a portion (roughly a quarter) of the eastern bypass length, which will serve a major new restaurant/theatre complex that is nearing completion.
Comparative bypass facilities built with appropriate water/sewer facilities include Jessamine County in Nicholasville, KY and another in Danville, VA. Both of these apparently have witnessed notable development. For these reasons, development is anticipated to occur rapidly as the water and sewer facilities are developed along the inner-eastern bypass.
Moreover, the future inner-west bypass continues to be viewed as essential to address western city congestion associated with the trains and to access the hospital. As this inner bypass is completed, development opportunities created by the ability to move from one side of the city to the other are anticipated.
The lack of sufficient sewer and water infrastructure has prevented residential, commercial and industrial development from occurring along the Mercer County Bypass. Until this infrastructure is in place, the bypass is not likely to have measurable economic development impacts.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet -Highway District #7
Bluegrass Area Development District
Case Study Developed by Wilbur Smith Associates