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2002 Award Winners
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Merit Award -- Design

Paris Lexington Road
Paris to Lexington, Kentucky

Jones & Jones Architects and Landscape Architects, Ltd.: Grant Jones, FASLA, Principal-in-Charge; Charles Scott, Project Manager; David Sorey, Project Landscape Architect

Grant Jones
Senior Principal, Jones & Jones Architects and Landscape Architects, Ltd.
105 South Main Street
Seattle, WA 98104
Tel: 206-624-5702
Fax: 206-624-5923
gjones@jonesandjones.com

Project Purpose And Context: The Paris Lexington Road (US 68) project entailed the innovative redesign of a 12-mile stretch of highway between the city of Lexington and the rural community of Paris, Kentucky. The Paris- Lexington Road, commonly called Paris Pike, runs through the heart of Kentucky's Bluegrass Region, which is nationally renowned for its scenic beauty and historic farms. Increased traffic volume and safety concerns drove the need to rebuild the existing two-lane Paris Pike as a four-lane divided highway.

Paris Pike is wholly contained within a 10,000-acre historic district eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Lined with historic rock fences, springhouses, large trees, and picturesque horse farms, the route is a popular part of any tour of the Bluegrass landscape. In 1973, a plan calling for a four-lane divided highway with a uniform forty-foot median was developed for Paris Pike. After many public debates over the impact the road would have on the corridor, a civil suit was filed in 1977, and an injunction halting the project was issued in 1979. After several more corridor studies and a series of fatal crashes in the mid-1980s, key participants developed a formal Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in 1993 outlining a basic vision for the corridor. As a result of the MOA, an Advisory Task Force was formed to help articulate this vision, and a new design team, including a landscape architect experienced in highway design, was selected.

A different approach to highway design was initiated by the landscape architect, who sought to look at the landscape first and then determine how best to make the road fit the landscape. This approach was based upon the premise that the intrinsic natural landscape patterns found within the corridor could serve as a framework for addressing cultural, historic, scenic, natural, archaeological and recreational resources. An understanding of the landscape patterns and resources in the corridor had a direct influence on the roadway's geometry, grading, landscape concepts, and materials used for roadway structures and details. Fitting the road to the land meant more than simply dodging sensitive areas and resources; it also required creating an alignment and cross-section that moves with and around the hilly terrain features rather than slicing through them. The resulting curvilinear alignment and rounded side slopes blend with the rolling topography to produce a road that is attractive, visually interesting, and safe to drive. This design approach required considerably less cut and fill, significantly reducing earthwork costs. The new Paris Pike fits the physical landscape form and blends seamlessly into the region's cultural context. The client openly stated that the final highway design developed by the landscape architect was significantly better than a design that would have been created by highway engineers.

Gaining public acceptance was a crucial step in the design of this project. The landscape architect devised a comprehensive series of Citizen Task Force meetings, property owner workshops, and monthly newsletters to encourage community involvement. Keys to successfully engaging residents throughout the design process included: understanding the landscape as a series of place units and working with people in these places since they shared similar concerns; communicating directly with individual property owners; displaying 3-D computer models of roadway designs; and using electronic polling to gauge stakeholders' opinions concerning various road design issues. Community values and feedback were incorporated into the final design.

Role of the Landscape Architect: The landscape architect prepared materials and conducted many of the public meetings throughout the course of the project. The landscape architect, assisted by design team engineers, took the lead in determining the alignment and grading for the new highway. The landscape architect, working with the design team engineers and historian, developed the design for other roadway features including timber guardrails, retaining walls, bridges, grass shoulders, and culvert headwalls. In addition, the landscape architect developed the design and plans for extensive roadside planting and revegetation.

Special Features: The highway design developed by the landscape architect is not typical. Much of the roadway is laid out on a continuous curvilinear alignment-long curves and spiral transition curves with minimal or no tangents-to blend with adjacent rounded terrain features. North- and south-bound roads are bifurcated, moving independently of each other to create a variable width median. Large trees and rock fences are preserved relatively close to the roads, further lending to the separation and small-scale rural-road feel of each road. Grass shoulders, timber guardrails, and stone veneer on headwalls and bridges were used to further integrate the new highway into the surrounding landscape. Although many of the design features developed and promoted by the landscape architect are atypical, the new highway meets state and federal design standards and did not require design exceptions or variances.

Significance: Few man-made objects have had as major an impact on the American landscape as roads and highways. However, through the last half of the 20th Century, landscape architects have had minimal influence in the planning and design of highways. Paris Pike represents a shift to landscape architects assuming a leadership role in highway design and imparting greater social and, environmental responsiveness and responsibility. Paris Pike has become a leading model of place-based, community-based planning and context-sensitive highway design and has helped spark the context-sensitive highway design program, currently promoted by the Federal Highway Administration, among state transportation agencies.

2002 Award Winners
Press Releases
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