Transit, land use plan unveiled for Lexington’s busiest road

Nicholasville Road is one of Fayette County’s busiest commercial corridors.

From Vine Street to Brannon Crossing, the north-south connector travels past the University of Kentucky campus, Baptist Health Lexington and south to the regional shopping destinations of Fayette Mall and The Summit at Fritz Farm.

That six-mile stretch is the city’s economic powerhouse.

But it’s also one Lexington’s most congested, and in some circles, despised roads because of the number of vehicles on it. On average, between 34,000 and 74,000 cars travel it each day.

A new land use and transportation study of the corridor recently released preliminary recommendations on how to make traffic flow easier and to get more people to use public transit or to bike or walk, relieving congestion. The study also makes preliminary recommendations on how to handle development along the corridor without impacting neighborhoods.

Some of the recommendations include:

  • A rapid bus line that would go the full length of the corridor
  • Creating bus-only lanes on certain sections of Nicholasville Road
  • Building a 10-foot wide shared bicycle and pedestrian path adjacent to the road
  • Restricting left turns to certain signaled intersections to keep traffic flowing
  • Centering development or redevelopment in locations readily accessible to buses. Developments should include retail, office space and housing options. Those projects should include green space and be pedestrian friendly.
  • Development should be more dense around 11 proposed rapid transit bus stops and decrease in density further away from those proposed rapid transit stops.
  • Development closer to neighborhoods should be smaller in scale and in height than developments in more commercial areas of Nicholasville Road.

The Imagine Nicholasville Road plan is an outgrowth of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan, which guides growth in Lexington. That plan called for more housing options and more density along the city’s major corridors. Imagine Nicholasville Road is the first major corridor to be studied. The plan started earlier this year with input from more than 5,000 residents who told the city what they loved, what they hated and what they wanted changed.

WSP, the consultants who helped develop the plan, recommended different types of transportation solutions and made different recommendations for development for different parts of the corridor. The preliminary recommendations are not a one-size-fits-all for the entire six-mile stretch of Nicholasville Road.

Now, city planners want the public to weigh in on those proposals.

“Community input at this phase is very important since the study’s recommendations will be used to help guide future development and determine the priority of transportation improvements,” said Kenzie Gleason, a transportation planner with the city. “Since we can’t meet in person right now, we are offering an online opportunity for the public to explore the initial concepts and to submit their thoughts.”

Residents have until Dec. 2 to submit their responses to [email protected] or by mail to the Division of Planning, 101 East Vine Street, Lexington, KY 40507. People who have trouble accessing the documents can contact the city at 859-258-3605.

“When reviewing the concepts, it’s important to keep in mind that this plan will guide growth and redevelopment that will occur along the corridor over time, primarily through private development. These changes won’t happen overnight,” said Gleason. “Transportation needs to support redevelopment, improve safety and overall travel along the corridor will be prioritized and coordinated with Lexington’s community-wide transportation improvement program.”

This is the first large-scale land use and transportation plan for the entire Nicholasville Road corridor. A small area plan, which guides land use, for the southern portion of Nicholasville Road was adopted in 2009.

There have been minor changes to Nicholasville Road to address traffic and congestion over the years. But this is the first comprehensive look at traffic and congestion on the corridor.

For example, the reversible lanes used on much of Nicholasville that switch inbound and outbound lanes depending on traffic and time period were first installed on parts of the road in 1979, Gleason said.

Some of the recommendations include doing away with those reversible lanes in some areas.

After gathering public feedback on the proposals, city planners will make final recommendations. Those recommendations will be forwarded to the planning commission, which will then be asked to adopt the Nicholasville Road plan sometime in 2021.

Beth Musgrave has covered government and politics for the Herald-Leader for more than a decade. A graduate of Northwestern University, she has worked as a reporter in Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois and Washington D.C.

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