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The Bypass Around Columbia, Kentucky: Why And Where?

This article first appeared in issue 11, and was written by Staff.

By-Pass (bi'pas', -pas')-To go around, to avoid; escape. Tossed aside or ignore. To get away from. A road, channel providing a secondary passage to be used instead of the main passage.


The planned highway bypass connecting 55N to the Cumberland Parkway is quickly approaching as a reality. Some see the bypass as the beginning and necessary step for community growth. Others see it as a major threat to damage the town or their business. Others believe it is primarily a real estate opportunity. Most are uncomfortable because they know little about where or when the bypass will be built.

The purpose of this writing is to raise questions and stimulate discussion on the bypass. I write this as a private citizen with no authority or special expertise. My research on this subject is limited to my personal analysis and discussions with many of you. Some of the proposed routes pass over or near my land; therefore I am in a biased position. Because of this I considered not writing this article. I can only state that I am working for the long range good of this community and invite your critical review with this in mind.

Magnitude of the Problem

The bypass has a reported budget in excess of $10 million, making it perhaps the single largest construction project in the history of Columbia. Bridges are to be built, intersections designed, on/off ramps to the parkway, dirt to be moved and more black top to be applied. We will have to be patient during the months and years of construction work. Thee will likely be some happy emotions of gain for some, but strong disappointment for those who are harmed or displaced. It may test our community and even friendships before it is completed.

None will refute the long range impact and it finality once completed. We are unlikely to have the opportunity for another major road for some time and we certainly cannot change the bypass after it is built. This road will influence this community for decades into the future and in perhaps ways none of us can yet see clearly. We all therefore bear responsibility and opportunity to participate in this decision.

Some fear a town discussion may offend Frankfort such that the highway department would withdraw the road. On the contrary, it would appear a united town with a vision and plan is most likely welcomed by Frankfort.

Growth and change often carry a price. This bypass is such a case. It would be a lost opportunity for this community to accept the price and not maximize the potential gain of this road. We need clear and farsighted thought as we approach both the why and where on the bypass.


Many would like to cancel the bypass. They believe it will irrevocably damage the town, their business, or both. Depending on the future growth of Columbia and how we handle zoning, these concerns become more likely. Fundamental to this issue is what size and kind of town do you want?

Without significant population and economic growth, Columbia cannot likely support two McDonalds, two Wal-Marts, two Houchens, two Circle-R's, etc. The most likely and typical tendency will be for stores to move onto the bypass. The road will provide convenience and much of the traffic will flow there. A significant portion of current business is from out-of-town visitors. Some have recently reported that up to 40% of their business was from customers outside Columbia. If a service station, restaurant, or other store is conveniently located on the bypass, it is not likely that many will get off the bypass and drive to existing businesses. If the community grows sufficiently to support new businesses, this situation may not develop. This potential growth will depend on our economic development success in attracting new companies and creating new jobs. We need entrepreneurs and business leaders to relocate here to create new jobs and to bring their corporate profits here to fuel our economic expansion. The more desirable our community, the more likely they will want to live here. The revitalization and beautification of the town center and the community in general will impact this potential. The bypass will pull some businesses from the town square, thus further weakening the already struggling revitalization effort.

Those wanting the bypass believe that traffic has become a major deterrent to our quality of life. For those sitting in traffic on Campbellsville Street on a Friday afternoon in the summer, traffic is a real problem. Big trucks circling the courthouse are damaging the town square and its atmosphere. One need only stand on the sidewalk for a few minutes to realize the number of large trucks that circle the courthouse daily. Traffic impacts most of us and slows our pace of life. Students, workers, shoppers and visitors would all like to reach their destination more quickly and perhaps more safely.

Many believe the bypass is a major opportunity for economic growth. Roads open access to new land for new businesses and new companies. A new industrial park is probably required for significant industrial recruitment. The bypass can facilitate the industrial park. For many, this is the single most important reason for the bypass.

Finally, some see the bypass as a major new street allowing a variety of real estate projects. New housing division will be built, land sales will accelerate and profit will be available for the taking. In some cases the bypass can open up land and significantly increase its value. In other cases the bypass will lessen the value of land or existing houses. For those wishing to build houses or develop housing lots the nearby bypass can with its associated traffic and noise, reduce the land value. These people may not want the by-ass or may want to move it away from their property. The bypass clearly can harm some while benefiting others. The community can both benefit and be harmed by the bypass. It is not a black and white decision. For those supportive of a bypass, where it is placed becomes the critical issue.


The state highway department has laid out at least 5 different bypass routes. All routes begin on 55N (near the intersection of 551 and circle the town center to connect to the Cumberland Parkway. You are encouraged to review the map for your own understanding of the routes. The map below shows these routes overlaid onto an area map. Although some rumors promote that the route is already decided, verbal statements for the highway department deny this. They state nothing has been decided and that all options are still open, conditioned on environmental impact studies, historical preservation, and final budget limits.

In order to objectively evaluate the various routes, we need to determine their pluses and minuses. The following list of factors may aid in your analysis. There may be other factors that you would add to the list. The list can then be arranged in order of importance to you.

By-Pass Why and Where Factors

1. Remove trucks from the town center.

2. Improve general traffic flow throughout the town.

3. Improve school traffic.

4. Access to a new industrial park.

5. Improve traffic flow from existing industrial park.

6. Allow new retail space and stores.

7. Allow new housing projects.

8. New on/off ramp to parkway. Opens land across the parkway for industrial development and improves parkway access.

9. New on/off ramp improves traffic flow.

10. Longer routes/farther out access more land.

11. Shorter routes/closer in impact more existing houses.

12. 2 exit towns seem to grow more efficiently.

13. Visitors bypassing tend to buy less.

14. Longer routes may cost less to purchase land but more to build.

15. Shorter/closer in routes may cost more for land purchase, but less to build.

16. Bridges significantly increase cost.

17. On/off ramps increase costs.

18. Location of utilities, electrical lines impacts costs.

19. Connecting to other roads such as E80, W80, 206, 61 has additional costs.

20. Potential increased traffic from Burkesville along 61, which is currently being rebuilt to provide an improved route to Tennessee).

21. Other issues-Airport, Russell Springs vs. Edmonton direction, number of traffic lights/stops, hill/flat land, etc.

This story was posted on 1997-01-15 12:01:01
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