Tribune-Courier News Editor
PADUCAH — The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet anticipates a bid date of late this year to award a contract for a new interchange at the Purchase Parkway and Ky. 348 in Benton.
Keith Todd, public information officer for the Kentucky Department of Highways, said the new interchange will eliminate the cloverleaf ramps and replace them with high-speed on and off ramps.
“We will eliminate the old ramps and toll plaza and replace them with the modern diamond ramps,” Todd said. “It will likely resemble Interstate 24’s Exit 16 at U.S. 68.”
Todd said the project will be incorporated with the widening of Ky. 348, or Fifth Street in Benton. It will require rights-of-way and construction easements on eight parcels of property for the new interchange. The Transportation Cabinet has budgeted about $20 million for the project.
“We need a lot more property for the widening of 348, and we are waiting on that,” Todd said. “We are able to move ahead with the interchange project, which is a part of the improvements to convert the Purchase Parkway into Interstate 69.”
One group that will likely be displaced is the Lakeland Chapter of the American Red Cross. Todd said the Transportation Cabinet owns the old toll plaza the Red Cross uses as its headquarters.
Todd said the Transportation Cabinet has not found the lease agreement with the Red Cross.
“We’ve been looking through our files. It may be the kind of agreement where we let them have the building for a dollar a year as long as they keep up the building. Until we find the agreement, we don’t know how much assistance we can provide,” Todd said.
Todd said since the contract for construction will not be bid for another six months, the Transportation Cabinet will create a plan for Red Cross relocation in the interim.
Darlene Lynn, executive director of the Lakeland Red Cross, said her organization will need to seek a new headquarters.
“As far as I know, we’ve been here since 1994. The county donated the use of the building to us. I’m not sure who actually owns the building, but my guess is the state,” Lynn said. “They did an inspection about a month ago and did some asbestos testing.”
Lynn said the Red Cross has no relocation plan at this time. The group considered relocation five years ago, but made no plan, as interchange improvements had not been finalized at the time.
“We can’t stay here, so we will be looking for something else,” Lynn said.
Lynn said the Red Cross will need space for a van, trailer and storage for equipment and disaster supplies.
“It may be a cost to us dollar-wise,” Lynn said. “Right now, the county has donated the building to us and we are operating without payment of rent.”
Judge-Executive Mike Miller said he has not spoken to representatives of the Red Cross, but would assist their relocation.
“That tollbooth has been a good place for the Red Cross. They can jump on the parkway and head in any direction they need to go,” Miller said.
Todd said the project is anticipated to span a full construction season or longer. He added the new ramps could be open by 2015.
“At some point, there could be lane restrictions,” Todd said. “We’re doing a similar construction at I-69 at Dawson Springs. It’s going forward with remarkably few traffic interruptions. Workers are able to handle dirt work and paving off the right-of-way. At some point, when they handle the tie-ins to the highway, there would be a lane restriction, but I don’t anticipate anything longer than a week or two, here or there.”