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Recourse to a dead end

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By Robin Bass

Hardin Court property owners are looking for alternatives to a plan that will make their narrow street a dead end when construction begins on a new Salt River bridge.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Department of Highways has proposed closing the one-lane street and installing a retaining wall so that the new bridge can be realigned with Jefferson Street. 

Larry Riley, the owner of a two-story apartment building on the corner of Hardin Street and Hardin Court, said he finds it “disturbing” how little consideration was given to those who will be affected by the change. Tenants in his six-unit building will likely lose parking spaces – reducing the number of spots for guests, as well. If renters get fed up with the arrangement, they could decide to move somewhere else.

“I stand to lose everything I have,” said Riley. With out tenants, he would not be able to make mortgage payments on the building.

“One second they were saying, ‘We didn’t think of that’ and the next they were saying, ‘We’ll take care of it’. It seemed like my concerns fell on deaf ears,” said Riley, after attending a meeting with state transportation representatives last Tuesday.

Riley was not the only property owner attending the meeting last week who believed the proposal could cause a him financial risk. Howard Jewell owns 11 homes on Hardin Court, including his own. The remaining houses are used as rental property and a great source of income for Jewell and his wife.

“My concern is for the depreciation of my houses if they make this a dead end street,” Jewell said.

Like Riley, Jewell said he was also concerned about the changes affecting the “desirability” of his rental property. Current tenants are already faced with tight parking conditions and often treat the street as if it was made for one-way traffic. If one end was permanently closed, would his tenants decide to look elsewhere?

“It’s just too tight down in that area,” said Jewell. “It really needs to have two ways out.”

Local officials said they agree, but the issue they are most concerned about is public safety. Magistrates and city commissioners attending last Tuesday’s meeting asked state engineers what would happen in the event of an emergency. What if a house caught fire or someone on the street suffered from a heart attack? How would emergency service vehicles maneuver a turn around on a narrow, dead end street?

During the meeting, several suggestions were considered. The most feasible solution appeared to be incorporating a cul-de-sac or “hammer head” turn around configuration that could accommodate a fire truck, said Brian Meade, project development manager with Kentucky’s transportation cabinet.

Taylorsville Magistrate David Henry said another option to consider would be to add a street or alley just to the west of Riley’s apartment building. The addition would require land purchases, but could help circulate traffic and provide additional parking for tenants.

After listening to local concerns, several state and contract engineers visited the site to visualize other options.

“We essentially are back at the drawing board,” said Meade. “We’re looking to see if we can maintain circulation in there, but we’ll have to look at the cost of potentially moving utilities or buying right of ways.”

Normally, such changes would delay construction, but Meade said local leaders were able to address resident concerns early enough in the process.

“We’re anticipating construction beginning late spring 2011,” said Meade.

A follow-up meeting is expected to be scheduled in December.