State Determined To Build I-66; Feasibility Questioned

FRANKFORT, KY -- Despite growing opposition from citizens' groups to the proposed Interstate 66, and evidence that the highway isn't needed or justified economically, the administration of Gov. Steve Beshear has pledged its support for the multibillion-dollar project, reports the Louisville Courier-Journa in its Sunday edition.

Project opponents and officials of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet have exchanged letters in recent months staking out their respective positions, and have held one meeting, on June 11. However, neither side appears to have given ground.

Chris Schimmoeller of Kentucky Heartwood, one of the advocacy groups fighting I-66, said she and other opponents told cabinet officials during the meeting that they would prefer to collaborate with the state on alternatives to constructing the road through southern and Eastern Kentucky. One option would be widening portions of Ky. 80 in Laurel and Pulaski counties, reports the C-J.

But she added that she also told the cabinet: "If you elect to proceed (with the interstate), we're going to fight you to the bitter end."

"They smiled and nodded," Schimmoeller said.

Transportation Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe said, "the project is continuing to go forward. I-66 is not being reviewed for possible scaling back."

Beshear's office issued a brief statement last week saying that while he appreciated opponents' interest in the project, he "is following the recommendations of the Transportation Cabinet in this matter."

Wolfe also said the cabinet "has no plan to revisit the economic justifications for I-66," as project opponents have requested, the C-J reports.

But those justifications are now more than a decade old. And state Rep. Harry Moberly Jr., D-Richmond, chairman of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, said he thinks taking a fresh look at the project's purpose and need would be sound public policy, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Moberly told the C-J, "I wouldn't have any problem with that at all. I think that probably ought to be done."

Copyright - The Louisville Courier-Journal

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