Ratterman and others say the widening of Southside Drive will not solve more pressing traffic problems in the area, such as a nearby railroad crossing that holds up traffic on National Turnpike for as long as 20 minutes during the day. Nichols adds, “Outer Loop needs to be widened desperately. That would alleviate traffic in this area. You’ve got all those people going out New Cut and National Turnpike, and when they get out of there what do they have, a two-lane road. Why don’t they widen that? Why don’t they widen Old Third Street Road from New Cut to Outer Loop? Widen Manslick Road, put an exit on Watterson Expressway. Those are the kinds of things that are going to solve traffic problems in this area, not a five-lane highway through Southside Drive. It doesn’t go anywhere.”
Davis says KYTC is taking community feedback from the December 13 meeting into consideration as it formulates a final plan for the Southside Drive expansion. But he says dealing with traffic capacity is a bigger priority than answering individual objections. “At the meeting, people were asking for three lanes instead of five-lanes near Strawberry Lane,” he says. “That area is already basically three lanes. We’d just be building a sidewalk. We got 31 questionnaire responses as compared to the 15,000 people that drive it every day. It is just a small sample of what opinions might be.”
Nichols’ business association sent a letter to KYTC in January opposing the expansion plan, but the group was informed that the period for public comment ended 15 days after the December 13 meeting. District 21 Metro Councilman Dan Johnson has also been a vocal opponent of the project, although the Metro Council does not have a role in the process. State Representative Denny Butler, who represents the 38th District, says he’s received numerous complaints about the project. Butler, who sits on the transportation committee board, says he will meet with KYTC to make sure the community has a voice in the process.
“I’m excited that they are talking about spending money in the South End,” Butler says. “But we have to do it in a responsible way. I want to insure that the community can have input in a real way.”
But any plan that includes five-lanes could mean the end of the Southside Pet Shop. The building is an old convenience store with a roof that has prestressed concrete beams, which would make it impossible to move the building farther back onto the property. Becky Gent says she and her husband are too old to start over in a new location. If they are forced to move, she says they would probably just close the business.
“That’s what makes it hard, they are not giving us enough information to either be really mad or feel that things are going to be okay,” she says. “I know there are other places to get pet supplies but we’re part of the community. I don’t want to have to go out this way. I know some day I’m going to have to retire, but I don’t want to be forced out.”