|Legislators disappointed with proposed 6-year road plan for Montgomery County
|By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer
State legislators David Hale and Ralph Alvarado both told the Advocate that they were disappointed with the governor’s proposed six-year road plan for Montgomery County and will be working together to get more.
They claim the plan will look far different once it works its way through the Legislature.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet released the 2020 Recommended Highway Plan to lawmakers Jan. 30.
It includes a project to widen a 1.77 mile section of Hinkston Pike (Ky. 1991) from Maysville Road to Midland Trail Industrial Park. The proposal commits $559,899 for the first phase of the project in 2020, $2.820 million in 2021, $5.070 million in 2022 and $3.230 million in 2023.
Another project would provide $15.290 million for widening the existing pavement and improving the vertical and horizontal curves of Winchester Road (U.S. 60) from the Mt. Sterling Bypass (Ky. 686) to just west of Bent Brook subdivision adding full width shoulders and center turning lane in congestion areas, according to the plan.
This would occur between mile points 2.007 and 4.311. The work is slated to be done between 2023 and 2026.
The third project would address pavement condition of I-64 in both directions from mile point 104.26 to mile point 112.1.
The total project cost is estimated at $7.150 million and is slated to done between 2023 and 2025.
A release said the plan prioritizes safety and fast-tracks major regional access projects “to improve the quality of life for Kentucky families and boost economic development.”
The plan features what the governor’s office claims to be a historic biennium investment of $100 million to improve safety conditions on rural roads through the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), infuses $8 million in the biennium to install more than 100 miles of life-saving guardrail across the state and invests $367.5 million to accelerate progress on the Mountain Parkway and I-69 Ohio River Crossing projects.
“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,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “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.”
Transportation Secretary Jim Gray said the projects will make Kentucky more safe.
“Kentucky has one of the nation’s highest highway fatality rates and these highway and guardrail investments will go a long way toward making our roads safer across the Commonwealth,” Gray said.
Rep. Hale, R-Wellington, and Sen. Alvarado, R-Winchester, are both members of their chamber’s transportation committees.
Hale said the final road plan will change considerably before it emerges from the Legislature.
“That will definitely not be the final road plan because the transportation committees and chairmen in the House and Senate will revamp that quite a lot,” Hale said. “The House and Senate will set the final road plan.”
Hale said he is anxious to get the Hinkston Pike project moving forward and will be pressing for movement on improvements along the Winchester Road corridor.
Alvarado said he is very concerned about what he perceives as continued delays in getting the Winchester Road project complete. He noted that the Bent Brook to Bypass phase of the project was identified as the No. 1 priority for Montgomery County two years ago by the Gateway Area Development District.
Alvarado said the project needs to be moved up.
“People are dying and have died and we’ve had a lot of accidents on that stretch of road,” Alvarado said.
While one phase is included in the governor’s proposal, Hale notes that doesn’t include the rest of the project extending work to the Clark County line. He estimated the total cost of both phases at approximately $60 million.
“It’s something that is definitely on the top of the list for both us,” Hale said of he and Alvarado.
Alvarado said the Winchester Road project is like a lot of others that have been pushed down the road when they are a critical need today.
Hale said the legislative committees will be looking at reincluding other projects statewide that had previously been included in former Gov. Matt Bevin’s final road plan.
He admitted it will be difficult due to a lack of funding created by the drop in gasoline tax revenue over the past five years.
Revenue from the gas tax is used to support the road fund and is based on the wholesale price of gas in Kentucky, which is lower than it had been.
Alvarado is proposing that a commission be established to grade road projects based on need, safety and economic development rather than politics.
“There’s been a weaponization of road projects in the past and I don’t think people are happy with that,” he said.
Alvarado said about 30 states evaluate road projects through a designated road commission.