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Senate approves Schickel-sponsored bill to reopen Capitol Avenue route in Frankfort to vehicular traffic

The Kentucky Senate on Tuesday voted 28-6 in favor of a bill sponsored by Union Senator John Schickel that would reopen the route between the Kentucky State Capitol and the Capitol Annex building in Frankfort to vehicular traffic.

Senate Bill 11 now moves to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

Governor Andy Beshear closed the portion of Capital Avenue in September 2021 citing security recommendations from the Secret Service and Kentucky State Police. Beshear’s roadway closure came nearly one year after erecting a security fence around the Governor’s Mansion and the closure of the State Capitol building to visitors from March 2020 to July 2021.

File Photo

Since the route’s closure, lawmakers and visitors to the Capitol campus have reported a tremendous increase in vehicular traffic through the Capitol Annex parking lot, increasing the risk of pedestrian injury.

To remedy this concern and ensure the route is reopened to Kentucky residents and tourists alike, Schickel introduced Senate Bill 11.

“I often organize field trips from my district in Boone County to come and visit our beautiful State Capitol and, for the most part, attendees are elderly and not very mobile,” Schickel said. “I was incredibly disappointed when this route was closed because it took away something special for Kentuckians, and that is the open access to this jewel of a capitol, which I think is the best in the United States.”

Shortly after the route’s closure in 2021, Schickel penned a letter to Governor Beshear expressing his disappointment in hopes the Governor would reconsider. He wrote:

“Kentucky has the most beautiful state capitol in the nation. One of the reasons people enjoy it is because of the easy access to it. Seniors especially enjoy visiting the capital in springtime when they can drive around the Capitol and see the gorgeous tulips, the floral clock and the rose garden without ever getting out of their cars. In the wintertime, they enjoy the same experience with the beautiful Christmas decorations that adorn the Capitol, Annex and Governor’s Mansion.”

Schickel also said the importance of not limiting residents’ First Amendment rights, saying:

“Often residents, expressing their First Amendment rights to petition the government, form caravans whether it be by using beer trucks, milk trucks, school buses, or vehicles adorned with signs and loudspeakers. Personally, as a state legislator, I have always enjoyed this experience interacting with constituents who agree and disagree with me. Ending this Kentucky political tradition would be a mistake.”

Sen. John Schickel

A former law enforcement officer, Schickel expressed respect for the recommendations made but felt security must be balanced with the need for an open government in a representative republic.

“We can protect people here on campus without closing a route that’s been a long-standing tradition here in the Commonwealth,” Schickel said. “If safety and security is the true concern, the most honest and consistent action we could take is to close the entire Capitol and Annex campus.”

Senate Bill 11 would still allow law enforcement and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to temporarily close the route if a threat warrants the action.

A version of Senate Bill 11 was also passed by the state Senate in the 2022 Legislative Session but was not acted upon by the state House of Representatives.

Find Senate Bill 11 at legislature.ky.gov and visit KET.org/legislature/archives to access footage from the Wednesday, February 8, Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee meeting and Tuesday, February 14, Senate floor proceedings.

Legislative Research Commission

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One Comment

  1. if you really want to make the capitol more accessible to people, reopen the tunnel connecting the capitol and the annex. Closing the tunnel made moving back and forth from offices to the rotunda for lobbying and rallying events difficult and inconvenient. Furthermore, it makes absolutely no sense for the tunnel to be closed to the public except for the possible reason to discourage them from coming to the capitol.

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