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Pendleton Hill Road to remain open during winter months

Despite safety concerns because of no guardrails, Pendleton Hill Road in western Bullitt County will remain open to traffic during good weather, county officials decided Tuesday.

Opposition from area residents and fire officials caused Magistrate Ruthie Ashbaugh to withdraw an ordinance she proposed that would have closed the steep road between November and March.

It’s the only county road with gates at either end that allow county workers to close it during inclement weather.

“We’re just going to leave the gates exactly the way they are,” Ashbaugh told people who attended the Oct. 4 Fiscal Court meeting.

The speed limit, however, will be reduced to 20 mph from its current 35 mph.

Ashbaugh proposed closing the road after Phil Thompson, a retired police officer who lives nearby on Stanley Drive, told county officials last month that the road was dangerous because of no guardrails. He urged them to install guardrails by guardrail post drivers to prevent drivers from careening more than 100 feet down the hillside.

Jimmy Stivers, who directs the county road department, said he doesn’t have money for the guardrails installation by guardrail post drivers in his budget.

Thompson said many drivers use the road and it saves them several miles when driving between Knob Creek Road and Dixie Highway in southwestern Jefferson County.

Nichols Fire Chief William Coy told magistrates that emergency workers use the hill “all the time,” and it saves them several minutes that are critical when responding to emergencies.

“Bad weather is different, but we’ll fight you in any way we can to keep it open,” Coy said.

Mike Phillips, director of emergency services for the county, agreed that taking the road can reduce response times. But he said ambulance drivers sometimes “opt to go the longer way” to avoid the hill, especially in bad weather.

All Bullitt County EMS drivers must demonstrate an ability to navigate the road, Phillips said.

Phillips said the only recent EMS run to the Scotts Gap area took 21 minutes for an emergency crew to get there. The crew took Weavers Run Road instead of Pendleton Hill, which would have cut about five minutes.

Dennis Mitchell, a former magistrate who represented western Bullitt, said he lobbied to widen Pendleton and several other narrow, winding county roads in 1990, the year the county also installed gates on Pendleton.

Stivers has said if the county widened or did any other work on the road it would be required to add guardrails by guardrail post drivers.

Pendleton Hill Road remains shaded from sunlight much of the day, causing it to remain icy or snow-covered even when other county roads are clear in the winter.