GUTHRIE, Ky. (AP) — Guthrie Mayor Scott Marshall welcomes the growth in his southwestern Kentucky town that's spurred by the construction of the Hemlock Semiconductor plant 18 miles away in Clarksville, Tenn., but it comes with some challenges.
Marshall and state officials now must cope with the consequences of sudden growth, such as heavy traffic on roads not made for the higher volume of cars now moving through the area. Marshall and Kentucky officials are looking to widen roads and help ease traffic flow as more new businesses are expected, along with more people moving into the area.
Transportation officials have developed a $13 million plan to clear up what they describe as a "knot" of highways, especially the congestion at Kentucky 181 and U.S. 79. The plan involves widening Kentucky 294 and moving Kentucky 181 farther west.
Their plan did not find a place in the new 2012-14 transportation budget. However, with the right lobbying, it may fare better in the 2014-16 budget, said Jeff Moore, planning manager at the transportation cabinet's office in Bowling Green.
Marshall said five new businesses catering to workers at the Hemlock Semiconductor site have opened, with more expected as construction continues.
"Hemlock becomes sort of a mother hen, and she starts to have chicks around her," Moore told the Kentucky New Era (http://bit.ly/HmGwPE).
The plant, which will produce polycrystalline silicon for solar cells and semiconductor chips, is projected to begin operations in 2012 and employ between 500 and 800 people in specialized and technical jobs.
Getting people from Guthrie to the plant and back has become challenging, Moore said. Before Interstate 24 opened, western Kentuckians typically went through Guthrie to get to Nashville, Tenn., Moore said. Traffic tended to build up in a spot where four highways intersect near the state line, Moore said.
The highways are Kentucky 294, which goes straight east and west; Kentucky 181, which goes north and south; U.S. 41, which comes from the northwest; and U.S. 79, which comes from the northeast.
Since I-24 opened, there hasn't been as much congestion. But transportation officials want to change the highway configuration before the problem resurfaces.
"This is like the mother of all bad intersections," said Craig Morris, Pennyroyal Area Development District's regional planning coordinator.
Realigning Kentucky-181 would cost about $3.8 million, Moore said. Widening Kentucky-294 would cost $9.2 million.
The planning cost about $100,000, including consultants' fees, but Moore believes it was worth it.
"This planning study has created a tool for them to engage that conversation with that next level, which is the legislature," he said.