Take a little ride with me

Published 9:25 am Thursday, November 2, 2017

By Will Collins

When I was a senior in high school visiting a few colleges in preparation for my future education, I remember going to Eastern Kentucky University with two of my cousins.

We made the trip from Whitesburg and knew the quickest way was to take the Bypass in Winchester once we turned on to Interstate 64 from the Mountain Parkway. It’s the route everyone took.

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In fact, during in the late 1980s, that’s how we viewed Winchester: either the last town before getting to Lexington or the quickest way to Richmond.

We enjoyed the quick trip down the Bypass (if that’s what it was called at that time) and then getting on Boonesboro Road.

It really was a very pretty drive.

Fast forward to 2017 and the Bypass is still used as the quickest route to Richmond, but it’s also used by many living in our city to get to Lexington for work.

My friends, it is crowded and it’s going to get worse, because we continue to grow.

I often hear a lot of people outside of our area say that Winchester is now a suburb of Lexington because of the large amount of our citizens that commute there. We need to change that perception.

Studies have shown that while the more populated cities will continue to see growth, it will be the mid-size cities that will be impacted the most by it.

Based on population, Winchester is not in that category … yet. But we are getting there.

My biggest concern is whether we are truly preparing for this increase in population.

It doesn’t appear so at the moment.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our city and county and want nothing but the best for it, but we need to do more.

One study I read lists the number one principle for such a situation as planning for long-term growth and renewal.

Let’s take the Bypass for example. By definition, “A bypass is a road or highway that avoids or ‘bypasses’ a built-up area, town, or village, to let through traffic flow without interference from local traffic, to reduce congestion in the built-up area, and to improve road safety.” Obviously we no longer have that. My new vision of this busy stretch of highway would have about five or six overpasses to eliminate several cross streets with traffic lights that cause congestion.

I’ve witnessed several cities that have done this, and the traffic moves so much smoother.

Obviously, the lack of planning for long-term growth has led us to this situation and building them now would cause even more delays with traffic.

But take a moment and envision what it will look like five, 10 or 20 years from now.

I realize the cost of such a task would be high but think about the millions of tax dollars we are losing to Lexington and Richmond as people travel there for employment.

Being stuck in traffic gives us plenty of time to see the vacant lots and vast amounts of land up for sale; so we have space to increase business opportunities. (Remember the idea of a regional sports complex?)

I’m not calling out all of our city and county leaders, I’m just calling on them to work together to plan for our future.

I certainly know that many of them do just that, but everyone needs to get on the same page, even if it means creating a committee to look into these very issues.

Maybe it’s something we already have and I will learn the fact with this column, but I can’t be the only individual getting frustrated with popular growth but our city showing little progress to hold it.

Benjamin Franklin said it best, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

I know we don’t want to fail and I have confidence we will be fine, but that confidence comes with an expectation of looking ahead.

Political enthusiast Will Collins is a lifelong resident of Kentucky and has called Winchester his home for the past 20 years. He can be reached at wrcollins70@gmail.com