UNION, Ky. -- Work has begun on a $26.1 million improvement project on KY 536 (Mt. Zion Road) in Union, an area of Boone County that has seen significant growth in recent years.
The first phase of the project involves widening a three-mile stretch of road from its current two lanes to five lanes starting at the I-71/75 southbound entrance/exit ramps westward to U.S. 42. The roadway will funnel back to two lanes at Old Union Road, where the first of two roundabouts will be constructed. The second roundabout will be west of Golden Pond Drive.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KTC) began designing the project in 2001 and expanded its design based on recommendations from a KY 237/KY 536 corridor study that evaluated those routes across Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties.
Construction crews began clearing trees and conducting excavation along the corridor on Dec. 6; construction will begin in earnest this spring, with anticipated completion in the fall of 2018.
Project goals include improved traffic flow and increased safety for cyclists and pedestrians.
"The purpose of the project is to address congestion and safety hazards," said KTC representative Nancy Wood, who said that those hazards include minimal shoulders as well as "horizontal and vertical curves that negatively impact drivers' ability to see and make judicial driving decisions.
"Safety will continue to be a top priority," Wood said. "The Cabinet is looking forward to working with the city of Union and the Boone County Sheriff in ensuring the safety of travelers and workers. Commuters are asked to follow all posted speed limits and remain alert through the work zone."
A similar undertaking saw portions of U.S. 42 expanded over the last decade or more. Since 2004, according to a community development website, more than 600 homes and condo units, as well as eight commercial projects, have been completed in the area.
"The population of the Union area of Boone County has been growing for over 15 years and there are no signs of it slowing," said Boone County Judge Executive Gary Moore. "Our land-use plan will continue to mold this area into a desirable community to live and the proposed 'Town Plan' business area will be a hot topic now that the Mt. Zion Road project is under construction."
Organizers hope that widening the roadway will support expressway traffic to and from the planned Union Town Center, which would be located south of Mt. Zion Road. City officials are in talks with prospective developers and the details of that project are forthcoming.
"The idea is the town center would be able to benefit from the traffic flow coming off of the highway," said Union City Administrator Matt Dowling. "When U.S. 42 was expanded, it opened things up for subdivisions and things like that, so the Mt. Zion Road project is sort of a second phase for significant transportation improvements in the area."
"We have subdivisions popping up pretty much all over, and as those grow and more people want to live in Union, transportation is a very important issue," said Dowling.
In efforts to increase walkability, the project will also feature multi-use paths framing both sides of Mt. Zion Road, and sidewalks will be constructed between the two roundabouts. Raised medians in certain areas will further enhance pedestrian friendliness.
KTC and Union officials are working collaboratively to communicate project details to residents and business owners in the area.
"We hope to be as proactive as we can in communicating with residents," Dowling said. "This is a huge project for the region, not just Union. We hope that a significant amount of economic development comes from it. Hopefully, (the construction) will be a short-term disruption but a long-term benefit to the community."
The project is being funded with federal transportation funds appropriated within a budget passed by the state legislature.