Despite delays, NKU connector road project still on budget, expected to bring relief

Project will be 'truly transformative' for campus

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. -- Traffic jams on Northern Kentucky University's campus will continue for several more months as construction continues on the new connector road between Johns Hill Road and Three Mile Road.

The completion date of the work, originally slated for fall, has been pushed back to spring.

Nancy Wood, public information officer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 6, said the project has been significantly delayed by "utility conflicts." 

“However, resources were redistributed to focus on the roundabout construction at each end of the job. This will allow each roundabout to be complete this year. The remaining work will be able to be completed without any impacts to traffic."

Sunset Drive in Highland Heights is currently closed at Three Mile Road because of the construction of the roundabout at that end of the project. It is expected to reopen before the end of October.

While the new road doesn’t yet connect the far ends of the campus, the section of road from the newly constructed roundabout at Johns Hill Road to NKU’s parking Lot K is open. From parking Lot K, which was recently rebuilt, visitors can reach parking Lot L, which provides access to Kenton Road and the remainder of the campus.

The partial opening is already making a difference in the campus traffic patterns, said Mary Paula Schuh, director of campus and space planning. Schuh said the construction project improves the campus visually and architecturally.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 6 office began work on the project in February. Once completed, the 1.7-mile road will extend from Johns Hill Road, through Northern Kentucky University’s parking areas and behind the residence halls and across Campbell Drive to Sunset Drive on Three Mile Road. The roadway, which will have one lane in each direction with a center turn lane and sidewalks, will be anchored on each end by a roundabout.

The road has been a longtime wish of NKU and was included on the university’s master plans as far back as 1999, according to Schuh, who has advocated for the project along with many others to improve safety and decrease traffic congestion in and around campus.

Traffic backups on Kenton Road, due largely to vehicles having to stop to allow pedestrians to cross the road to go to class, has long been a problem.

“It’s been a really, really long time coming, and it is so exciting. It is truly transformative what it is doing to our campus,” Schuh said. “Once it is completed, instead of all of the starts and stops on Kenton Drive, all of the traffic will be on the connector road, where there won’t be all of the pedestrian traffic causing them to stop.

"From a planning and efficiency standpoint, it is such a benefit to the campus."

Bray Construction Service Inc. of Alexandria was awarded the low-bid contract of $10.6 million for the project. Despite the delays, the project has not experienced any significant cost overruns.

A second phase to the project, a 1.8-mile connector road downhill from Johns Hill Road to the AA Highway in Wilder, could start in 2020, Schuh said.

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