SOMERSET, Ky. -- U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers has funneled nearly $90 million in federal funds toward a proposed interstate highway in Kentucky that likely will never cross the state, much less stretch beyond its borders, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal in its Sunday edition.
Despite the substantial expenditure of funds, not a single shovelful of dirt has been turned on Interstate 66, conceived nearly two decades ago as a coast-to-coast corridor that would run through Southern Kentucky. Since then, it has been abandoned by every other state as unnecessary or too expensive, reports the C-J.
"We try not to build roads that don't lead anywhere," said Brent Walker of the West Virginia Department of Transportation, which has never seriously pursued I-66.
Nevertheless, Kentucky continues to push forward, urged on by I-66 supporters, including local politicians and economic-development officials, and driven by Rogers' powerful influence as a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, reports the newspaper.
That influence -- accumulated over the 27 years Rogers has represented Southern and Eastern Kentucky's 5th Congressional District -- combined with Congress' general reluctance to oppose a member's pet projects, helps explain I-66's staying power.
"Why is Kentucky the only state to find the road worthy of pursuit?" asked Dr. Hilary Lambert, a longtime I-66 opponent who has taught geography and environmental studies at several universities and who is a former associate director of the Kentucky Waterways Alliance.
"Because Hal loves it so much. He's a guy who brings roads to his district."
Many critics, including environmentalists, government-spending watchdogs and some affected landowners, say I-66 is a bad investment and a poor use of scarce transportation funds, reports the Courier-Journal.
Copyright: The Louisville Courier-Journal