There is no proposed route for an Owensboro outer loop as yet. For now, there are only vague, suggested routes subject to change, and no funds to build a loop of any kind in the state’s road budget.

So when state highway officials and engineers connected with Daviess County residents Tuesday evening via Zoom, the idea was not to tell people where the outer loop route would be, but to ask if a loop is wanted or needed at all.

Officials received dozens of comments, as people questioned how such a loop would impact farmland, land development and even city annexation. Some people posting said a loop isn’t needed at all.

But Tuesday’s meeting on the proposed loop was not the final word. Members of the public have until July 2 to review the feasibility study and make comments.

Highway officials have tentatively proposed a highway loop around the city, similar to U.S. 60. The loop would route heavy traffic completely around the city, avoiding congested areas inside city limits.

The plan, and a survey, can be found at the highway department’s District 2 website: https://transportation.ky.gov/DistrictTwo.

Deneatra Henderson, chief district engineer for the District 2 highway office, said the feasibility study was conducted to determine Daviess County’s future road needs.

“We are trying to see: Is this even a project we need to plan on?” Henderson said. “If this is not a need for your community, we will hear that.”

There are multiple steps in the process, if the project gets beyond the initial feasibility stage, Henderson said. For example, funding would have to be secured, such as from state government, and engineering and environmental studies would have to be conducted.

“If the money were there tomorrow — and it’s not — this would be a 10- to 15-year project,” Henderson said. Right now, the only money allocated has been federal highway dollars used for the feasibility study itself.

Lindsay Walker, senior transportation engineer with HMB Professional Engineers Inc. in Lexington, said the project is just in the “brainstorming stage.”

The work thus far has been focused on gathering data, and officials have looked at traffic on existing roads, crash locations and severity, and projected traffic growth in the city’s future. Local elected officials, school leaders and representatives from fire and emergency service agencies have been consulted, Walker said.

While three “routes” were displayed on the study map, they are extremely preliminary, and could be tailored or built in segments.

“We would like to try to use some existing roads, if possible,” Walker said. A possibility floated was to not build a loop, but to build connectors between existing roads to help reduce traffic.

“This is not automatically another bypass,” said Bradford Johnson, planning principal in charge for HMB Professional Engineers.

Henderson said highway officials are using the study to attempt to plan for the future.

“I know there’s no congestion need now,” Henderson said, but said, “if you wait until the congestion is bad, we’ll have to wait for years and years” for the problem to be corrected.

If the project goes forward, it would be built in segments, Henderson said. Or, only segments could be built around specific areas, officials said.

“At one time, the U.S. 60 (expansion) was a pipe dream,” Henderson said. “It took 20 years ... to come to fruition.

“Maybe the outer loop will forever be crazy,” Henderson said.

But he added that a loop, or some variation, could reduce traffic on rural roads, from people trying to go from one major roadway to another.

“I don’t want cut-through traffic on my road,” said Henderson, who lives on a farm. “I want them on a state road.”

A draft report on the study, including all the public comments from Tuesday’s meeting and the survey, will be released later this summer.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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