The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) recently presented the 2020 recommended six-year highway plan to lawmakers, featuring a historic biennium investment of $100 million to improve safety conditions on rural roads, $8 million in the biennium to install more than 100 miles of life-saving guardrails and more than $367 million to accelerate progress on the Mountain Parkway and I-69 Ohio River Crossing projects. The plan features three projects for Marshall County taking place over the next six years, including a major road widening project and several miles of pavement work.
The proposed "Recommended Road Plan" will not become final until passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Andy Beshear.
The project scheduled to begin design and construction phase in 2020 is addressing the pavement condition of U.S. 641 between mile points 7.981 and 8.824; the total project cost for less than a mile of pavement work is $825,000. These mile points align with the resurfacing project on Main and Poplar streets in Benton.
The second project's design phase is scheduled to begin in 2021: a "major widening" in Calvert City. The widening would improve access and reduce congestion on US-62 from KY-95 to the existing four-lane highway at Lone Valley Road near the I-24 interchange and future I-69 connection. Obtaining right-of-way and beginning utilities relocation work would, according to the proposed plan, begin in 2023 and the construction would begin in 2024. The total projected cost is more than $5.4 million.
The third and most costly project in Marshall County involves addressing the pavement condition of I-24 in both directions from mile point 17.32 to 29.14. The design phase is scheduled to begin 2024 and the construction phase is scheduled to begin in 2025. The total projected cost is nearly $10.5 million.
Beshear said, "This plan delivers on our commitment to invest in long-awaited regional access projects that can open up economic opportunities in rural regions while providing a responsible approach to improving our highway infrastructure statewide. The plan also focuses on highway safety programs and projects designed to make our rural roads and school access safer for our children and families who use these roads every day."
In a statement released to the media, KYTC said the Recommended Highway Plan supports the Beshear Administration's focus on rural road safety by providing additional state funding to boost federal HSIP activities to $100 million over the next two years. This is made possible by adding $23 million in state funding to the HSIP effort. The HSIP uses existing safety data to identify eligible projects to make travel safer on Kentucky roadways. The Plan also supports the Governor's education emphasis by advancing five school safety projects in the biennium. These five projects provide $10.7 million to build new turn lanes that address traffic congestion and improve access in and out of schools in Warren, Bullitt, Trimble, Carter, and Floyd counties. In addition, a new guardrail program invests $8 million each biennium above and beyond the Cabinet's maintenance fund to aggressively address over 400 guardrail projects in the state's 3,400 mile backlog of guardrail needs. Sixty-percent of traffic-related deaths result from highway departures making guardrail installation a practical step to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries if fewer vehicles leave the roadway.
"Kentucky has one of the nation's highest highway fatality rates and these highway and guardrail investments will go a long way toward make our roads safer across the Commonwealth," said Secretary Jim Gray.
The plan will continue an investment of $80 million annually in the repair and replacement of critical bridges across the commonwealth, and also an investment of up to $200 million annually in the improvement of pavement conditions statewide.
KYTC said the plan also includes significant progress for the Mountain Parkway project to revitalize eastern Kentucky and create a safe and modern corridor for residents, businesses and tourism. The Recommended Highway Plan includes a six-year total of $97.3 million to complete the gap between Campton and Salyersville plus $3.2 million to begin the design phase to widen Parkway east along the existing KY 114 corridor toward Prestonsburg. Once completed, the Mountain Parkway will run more than 90 miles between Interstate 64 and U.S. 23 in eastern Kentucky and complete a four-lane, high-speed route across the length of the state - from Paducah to Pikeville.
The plan also includes a total of $77 million in design, right of way, utilities and construction funding in the biennium (a total of $267 in the next six years) to build a portion of the I-69 Ohio River Crossing in western Kentucky. The section from the Henderson Bypass (KY 425) to U.S. 60 in Kentucky is the southern portion of the project which is expected to move to construction in late 2022. While the development of the southern section is underway, KYTC will work with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to develop a plan for completing the Ohio River crossing connecting Henderson, Kentucky and Evansville, Indiana. The $1.1 billion Ohio River crossing portion of the project will likely require innovative financing using a combination of tolls, potential federal INFRA grants, and bi-state dollars from each agency. Kentucky's share of the project is approximately 65% of the total project cost.