back on track
Grange City Council
decides railway future
option unpopular among some merchants
Helen E. McKinney
LA GRANGE, Ky. (August 2005) Railroad track renovations
along Main Street in downtown La Grange are necessitated by a Federal
Railroad Administration rule clarifying the use of train whistles at
unguarded intersections. All agree the renovations are long overdue,
but now the hotly debated question is: What will the end result look
For several months concerned city council members, merchants and the
Historic Main Street Renovation Committee, headed by Lucy Ricketts,
have debated between two options for renovation. Concept 1 calls for
two-way traffic on Main Street and will keep open a crossing at Jericho
Road and Cedar Avenue.
by Don Ward
Street in downtown La Grange.
Additional elements include installing crossing arms where
Main Street intersects First and Second streets, Ky. 53, Walnut Avenue
and Cedar Avenue. The Third Street crossing will close. It hasnt
been determined yet whether Sixth Street or Kentucky Street will close.
The Oak Street crossing will be re-opened.
The alternate plan is known as Concept 4 and would implement one-way
traffic and the closing of the Jericho Road crossing, with traffic from
the east of La Grange being routed down Cedar to Washington Street.
A pedestrian mall would replace the current traffic lane on the south
side of the tracks.
CDP Engineers of Lexington, Ky., was hired to draft a Master Plan for
the renovation project. The firm recommended Concept 1 its choice, saying
it would be less expensive than Concept 4.
Concept 1 passed by a 4-2 vote Tuesday, July 19, at a special city council
meeting. It carries a provision giving the council the right to amend
the resolution and requires the final plan to have the councils
By providing the stipulation to amend the plan, the final plan may not
be just Concept 1 as it is now presented, said Ricketts.
The final plan may also contain certain elements of Concept 4.
While no one disputes the need for repair, many merchants say their
suggestions for the aesthetic quality of the project havent been
heard. Trish Garlock of The Treasured Child toy store on Main Street
said the debate has nothing to do with parking because its just
a given that the town will lose some parking. Garlock cites safety as
the main issue.
With two-way traffic, one lane would be on the south side of the street
where Garlocks business is located. Add to this a six-foot sidewalk,
8-inch curbing and a moving car. There would be no buffer, and
a lot of movement, Garlock said.
Had Concept 4 been chosen, We could have kept (and added) shade
trees, planters, cafe tables and chairs and had a place for kids
playground equipment, Garlock said.
She wants to display playground equipment outside her store but has
no room to do so in the crowded space along Main Street.
CSX, which owns and operates the railroad, has offered to donate old
train parts to use for decoration or artistic purposes, she said. The
idea is that people driving by will view an inviting space, even if
the traffic pattern were to change to one-way traffic.
Kitty Bierbaum, owner of The Old Oak Frame House on Main Street, said
Concept 4 is more appealing to the general public. This
concept is better because of the lights, tables and large sidewalks
that would be installed, she said. She suggested holding outside music
events in this area, while providing a nice place for people to come
to sit, visit and eat.
Bierbaum said Concept 1 is not the safest. According to
Bierbaum, cars would be too close to the sidewalk. With Concept 1, speed
would be reduced to 15 mph and speed bumps installed.
Even though she doesnt prefer it, she is hoping for a trial run
for Concept 1. If concrete barriers were placed along the sides of Main
Street, everyone would get a better sense of the look and feel of the
project, she said. Many merchants are concerned that vehicles, such
as large fire trucks, wouldnt be able to make the turn onto Main
Street if the street were altered.
Bierbaum estimated that 90 percent of merchants prefer Concept 4. You
have to understand the difference between the two concepts, she
said. We want Main Street to be unique and have that old town
She has been to numerous public and city council meetings to voice her
opinions along with other Main Street merchants. Bierbaum said Scott
Southall, director of landscape architecture and planning for CDP, never
talked to us one-on-one. Not every merchant could attend the meetings
and express his opinion.
Southall stressed the fact that Concept 1 would be the best choice,
providing a good economic impact for the city, said Bierbaum.
Both she and Garlock agree that there should be some kind of impact
Bierbaums business is a destination spot where customers drop
off an order and come back at a later time to pick up their framed artwork.
She fears the inconvenience of not being able to park in front of her
business for a few minutes will be frustrating to some customers.
A permanent funding source has not been found yet, although there is
the possibility of grant money being awarded, said Ricketts. The citys
municipal road aid fund may also be tapped.
The city council also voted to acquire property on East Main Street
at Walnut and Chestnut streets to use for parking space. Ricketts, who
is also a city council member, said the council was working on acquiring
some nearby property as an alternate parking option.
Whatever the outcome, We have to make the best of it, Bierbaum
The next step is to meet with CSX, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
and the Federal Railroad Administration.
The Historic Main Street Renovation Committee
will meet at 2 p.m. on Aug. 13 at Lesco Manufacturing on Ft. Pickens
Rd. For more information contact Lucy Ricketts at (502) 222-1783 or
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