With completion of the double crossover diamond at the Interstate 24/U.S. 60 Paducah Exit 4 interchange months away, construction is causing problems for some businesses around Kentucky Oaks Mall.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials said the $9.1 million project, which has a Nov. 20 target completion date, will greatly improve traffic flow in and around the key interchange. In the meantime, it has necessitated some closures and re-routing of traffic as work progresses.
Starting Tuesday night, the contractor plans to shift traffic to the outside lanes along the work zone between Coleman and New Holt roads to allow work along the median area. That shift is expected to last one or two nights. In addition, the transportation cabinet is planning a five-week closure of U.S. 60 and its connecting ramps at Exit 4 starting July 8.
Mainline I-24 traffic will remain open, but ramps and U.S. 60 through the interchange will close with a marked detour via the I-24/Ky. 305 Paducah Exit 3 interchange.
"We've been working with city and county government officials, as well as the Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau, in an effort to make the closure as painless as possible for both businesses and travelers," said Kyle Poat, KYTC District 1 chief engineer.
"We've determined, along with the contractor, that by closing the entire interchange (starting July 8) we can shorten the total time of closure from about eight weeks to five."
Some businesses have been feeling the impact and are bracing for the post-July 4 closing.
Kathryn Meisinger is general manager of Jimmy John's at the corner of U.S. 60 and James-Sanders Boulevard.
"It has very much negatively impacted my delivery times," she said of the business which uses "Freaky Fast" as a delivery slogan. When you take into account the added time for each delivery, and the number of daily deliveries, "that's a lot of labor hours added on," she said.
"And we get a lot of business off the interstate," Meisinger said. "When (the Exit 4 ramps) actually shut down, that's going to hurt really bad. That's going to increase our delivery time even more."
The store is working to coordinate some deliveries with the Jimmy John's off Exit 7 to minimize delays, she said.
The increased work zone traffic also impacts part of her daily business routine, Meisinger said.
"A bank run (normally) would take 10 minutes … now it takes 30 minutes," she said.
Business is also down at the FiveStar on the other side of U.S. 60, store manager Dianna Courtney said.
"It's better this week than last week (when a portion of James-Sanders Boulevard was shut down), but business is down," she said Friday. "Our store at Exit 7 is actually getting a lot of my business."
With the changes in traffic flow during construction, customers coming off the interstate have had problems getting into the gas station, Courtney said.
"People were really upset because they didn't know where to go. I'm still worried about that."
However, Courtney appreciates what she sees as efforts by construction crews to work quickly and try to minimize impacts on businesses.
"They're really doing a great job, as far as trying to see that my business is still here," she said. "They're being very helpful about that."
Sandra Wilson, Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce president, encourages the community to continue supporting businesses in the area of Kentucky Oaks Mall while construction progresses.
"While we realize it is an inconvenience for the community and especially those businesses in this area during construction, we believe it will be an asset to our community in the future with this new design that will provide safety and easier access benefits," she said. "The transportation cabinet has identified this as a need for our community and invested state funds to construct it.
"It may take a little bit more time to get to those businesses, but we want them to know we care about them."
KYTC spokesman Keith Todd said once the project is complete and motorists become accustomed to it, they'll see the benefits.
"It's much safer, because you're not having to cross traffic when you make a left turn," he said. "And, also you're eliminating a phase of the signal. When those two things are combined, it moves traffic probably about one-third faster than what you see there now."
Approximately 28,500 vehicles travel U.S. 60 through the Exit 4 interchange each day, according to the KYTC.