up for growth
of new I-71 interchange
to speed growth in Gallatin County
Ramada Inn already scheduled
to go up at Spartas Exit 57
(June, 2002) SPARTA, Ky. It wont hold much
traffic except for four race weekends this year and next year at the
Kentucky Speedway, but the new I-71 Exit 55 interchange was officially
opened May 8 in a brief, rain-threatened ceremony that included Kentucky
Gov. Paul Patton and an unusual ribbon cutting by three-time ARCA RE/MAX
champion driver Frank Kimmel.
Kimmel, of Jeffersonville, Ind., climbed into his No.
46 Ford Taurus and sped down the newly paved 1.5-mile highway, breaking
a silver ribbon held by Patton and speedway co-owner Jerry Carroll.
The $12.3 million interchange is the first segment of an eventual 4.5-mile
connector road that will join I-71 with Hwy. 42 at the Markland Dam
bridge into Indiana. A 1.7-mile section of Hwy. 35 south of the interstate,
from Hwy. 467 to I-71, is being reconstructed and expected to be completed
in August. That project began in April 2001 and will cost $3.3 million.
The $26 million connector road from I-71 to Hwy. 42 will be awarded
in early January 2003 and scheduled to be completed in late 2004, according
to Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secy. James Codell III. The new highway
and interchange had been planned for some time but was not scheduled
to be built for several more years. Gov. Patton admitted the project
was moved up with the construction of the speedway to aid in moving
traffic in and out of the parking areas on race day.
The new interchange is two miles southeast of the Sparta Exit 57 on
I-71. The new highway will eventually be four lanes but only two will
be paved at first, officials said. The road is expected to alleviate
truck traffic from the steel and other plants located along Hwy. 42
that must now travel through downtown Carrollton or Warsaw to reach
The immediate need is to alleviate truck traffic, but the long-range
goal is to improve overall transportation for Gallatin County,
Codell said. It will also open up economic development opportunities
for the area.
Gallatin County Judge-Executive George Zubaty said he expected development
activity to blossom along I-71 as the new road nears completion. Things
are going to explode around here, he said, although he was not
aware of any specific plans by companies to locate there.
Patton said he recalled planning the road project when he was lieutenant
governor. His term expires in late 2003 and he cannot seek re-election
because of term limits.
Rep. Paul Marcotte, Rep. Royce Adams and Boone County State Sen. Dick
Roeding also attended the ceremony. Marcotte said he served on the original
committee to get the project started.
Patton called it a special occasion because few new roads
are being built in the state because of fiscal restraints. This
road will promote economic growth in the decades ahead, he said.
Carroll called the governor and Codell dream-makers, adding
that they understand what were trying to do at the Kentucky
Speedway as part of the areas economic development.
Snowden Armstrong, a Realtor with Grubb & Ellis West Shell Commercial
Co., has 125 acres of undeveloped land listed along the new interchange
road. He predicts the area will eventually build up, but added that
it takes time.
The Kentucky Speedway may develop into something more, but right
now the races themselves have no staying power for hotels and restaurants
to come in, Armstrong said. If they could get nine events
to become 18 or 20, but thats still not enough to keep hotels
busy year-round. If they can get another entertainment complex of some
type, it may become a destination.
Regina Stewart of Century 21-Whitehorse Realty owns a farm along the
new interchange and is working on a deal that could bring a new multi-million
entertainment venture to the area. She could not reveal
any more information because the sale was pending.
That is a prime development location along the interstate, and
weve had several calls on it, she said. She already has
sold 50 acres for a commercial development and is negotiating with several
businesses to join in the deal.
Fred and Judy Berkshire, meanwhile, have turned 80 acres of their farm
into a campground on the outskirts of the speedway property and, until
the I-71 interchange opened, had poor road access to the public. Now
that the interchange is open, the new road runs up the hill right past
their farm and their Edge of Speedway campground.
We are opening fulltime as a campground this year, Judy
said. Before, nobody knew we were here.
She says that if the speedway gets a Winston Cup race, she should have
no problem filling her camp spots. Meanwhile, Tom Rapier RV is setting
up a display of vehicles for public inspection during race weekends
this summer and cooking out free food prior to each race.
We didnt have too many people here in May because it was
a smaller race. But we expect a big crowd in June with the Busch race,
On the east side of the track at the existing Exit 57, meanwhile, Neal
OConnor is making moves to protect his investment. OConnor,
who last year built a new B.P. Station on Hwy. 35 just across the road
from the front gate of the track, recently sold 18 acres of adjacent
land for the construction of a future Ramada Inn. OConnor and
the hotel developers Ray and Claire Patenaude, based in Sellersburg,
Ind., are working on a sewer design to tap into the Regional Sewer District
coming from Carrollton. Once complete, construction on the hotel could
begin as early as this summer, with completion set for spring 2003.
The Petanaudes own several businesses, including a Ramada Inn in Sellersburg,
two Dairy Queens and plan to open an Extended Stay hotel in Sellersburg
in June. The Sparta hotel will be situated on top of the hill for visibility
from both directions on I-71 and feature 79 rooms, including 22 suites.
They say they are not worried about the fact the nearby Kentucky Speedway
only has racing four weekend a year. They are negotiating with Belterra
Casino Resort to handle their overflow on weekends and say the Sparta
location gives them the only branded hotel between Florence and Carrollton.
We are familiar with interstate locations and were not building
there just because of the speedway thats just icing on
the cake. With Belterra nearby, were totally optimistic,
The couple is negotiating with several restaurant chains, including
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, with whom they have worked with in
the past in Sellersburg and Corydon, Ind.
OConnor, meanwhile, said he wanted to see his exit blossom before
the new exit takes off. Im in a race against time, because
its whichever exit booms first. I cant see anyone investing
a lot of money around the new interchange until that road goes all the
way through especially considering what people want for their
land. So Ive still got a little time.
He figured that selling a piece of his land now would spur development
around his new service station and convenience store. I know it
wont happen overnight, but it might put me ahead of the other
As the speedways calendar grows, locals agree that more development
is expected to follow. As Judge Zubaty says, This area is just
going to explode.
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