04/03/2013 4:33PM

Keeneland: Road project will snarl traffic near racetrack

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Racing fans accustomed to visiting Keeneland as a seasonal rite of passage this April will find their travel to and from the track affected by a major Kentucky Transportation Cabinet resurfacing project on U.S. 60 (Versailles Road) scheduled to last until Oct. 31.

Work began in February on a 6.4-mile section of U.S. 60 starting at New Circle Road in Lexington, just east of Keeneland, and ending at the Blue Grass Parkway connection in Woodford County near Versailles. Most of the six-lane segment of U.S. 60 that runs past both of

Keeneland’s main gates will be reduced to four during resurfacing.

The resurfacing project will not only affect Keeneland’s spring meet, which begins Friday and concludes on April 26, but also impact its fall meet, scheduled for Oct. 4-26. Another segment of U.S. 60 farther west in Woodford County connecting Versailles and Frankfort is also scheduled to be resurfaced this year, starting in the spring and finishing by Dec. 1.

“It’s no secret that the construction is going to have an effect on people arriving here,” Keeneland president and CEO Bill Thomason said at a Wednesday press conference. “We have been working with [state and Lexington government] especially over the past few weeks to make sure we mitigate any of the undesirable effects having to do with the construction at this very important time for Keeneland.”

Thomason, along with representatives of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government’s police department, detailed several steps they will take to reduce traffic delays, including increasing traffic patrol presence, positioning officers to direct traffic, and adding signage and maps directing patrons to alternate routes.

Thomason also said the contractor working on the U.S. 60 project sped up construction near Keeneland’s Gate 1 entrance at the intersection of Man ‘o War Boulevard and U.S.  60 and that all six lanes of U.S. 60 at that intersection would re-open on Friday. This should enable patrons driving from Lexington to use two of the three westbound lanes as turn lanes into the Gate 1 entrance.

Besides its two main gates on U.S. 60, Keeneland has a rear Gate  3 entrance opening at the northwest end of the racetrack to Rice Road (Ky. state road 1969), a two-lane road that runs north to south behind the main track and the training track. Rice Road is accessible via U.S. 60 on its south end and traveling north links to Old Frankfort Pike (Ky. 1681) through two connecting roads, Van Meter Road and Elkchester Road, which are also part of Ky. 1969.

A section of Van Meter Road curls around the racetrack and opens up at U.S. 60 just east of Keeneland’s Gate 1 entrance. That artery will be used as an additional route for patrons parking in the free and tailgate areas.

Keeneland set a record for attendance at last year’s spring meeting, drawing 269,292 over 15 days. It also set a single-day attendance mark on April 14, Blue Grass Stakes Day, when 40,617 patrons visited the historic track.