FRANKFORT, Ky. - On Wednesday, Governor Steve Beshear sent to the Kentucky General Assembly a 2014-2020 Recommended Highway Plan that, if enacted, would provide nearly $7 billion of state and federal funding for transportation improvements across the Commonwealth.
Proposed projects include widening and extending the Mountain Parkway for economic development in Eastern Kentucky, completion of the six-laning of Interstate 65 and continuation of the Downtown Crossing bridge and interchange project on the Ohio River in Louisville.
The proposed plan also would provide for badly needed new bridges across Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake, funding to facilitate the Brent Spence Bridge project in Northern Kentucky and continuation of long-awaited projects to complete the I-69 Corridor in Western Kentucky.
“Our transportation system carries the life blood of our Commonwealth,” Gov. Beshear said. “Our commerce, economic development, education, community growth – our very quality of life – all depend on a transportation infrastructure that is as modern and safe as we can make it. Our Recommended Highway Plan represents a critical investment in that infrastructure.”
The Recommended Highway Plan honors commitments made in the 2012 Highway Plan while providing a way to accommodate some major, new initiatives, such as four-laning and extending the Mountain Parkway from Campton to Prestonsburg and setting aside funding to facilitate the Brent Spence Bridge project in Northern Kentucky. For both of those projects, the plan recommends toll revenue bond funding, as is being used in Louisville for the Downtown Crossing.
Notable provisions include:
Mountain Parkway – Widening and extension from Campton to Prestonsburg
Already identified as one of Gov. Beshear’s highest priorities, the Mountain Parkway, which now reaches from Winchester to Salyersville, would be widened to four lanes in its entirety and extended eastward to Prestonsburg by 2020. It is a $753.6 million project, for which $595.6 million of conventional funding is provided in the Recommended Highway Plan. The remainder – $158 million – would come from sale of toll revenue bonds.
I-65 – Widening to six lanes
The Governor’s plan provides $270.7 million over four years to complete the widening of I-65 with projects in Hart, LaRue and Hardin counties. When completed, the heavily traveled corridor will be six lanes wide from the Tennessee border to the Ohio River at Louisville.
Land Between the Lakes Bridges and U.S. 68/KY 80
The Governor’s plan follows through on a commitment to economic development in western Kentucky by providing $165 million of construction funding for a new bridge to replace the narrow, aged Henry R. Lawrence Memorial Bridge, which carries U.S. 68/KY 80 over Lake Barkley. A near-twin to the Lawrence Memorial Bridge, the nearby Eggners Ferry Bridge over Kentucky Lake, also is being replaced and the same level of construction funding was provided in the 2012 Highway Plan. Both bridges opened in 1932 and were built to span rivers, not lakes. In addition to new bridges, the Recommended Highway Plan provides construction funding of $49 million for widening U.S. 68 from Lake Barkley to Cadiz and $6.8 million for widening the Cadiz Bypass.
The Governor’s plan allocates $162.7 million through 2020 for improvements in the I-69 Corridor. Work includes upgrading roadway geometrics to interstate standards and reconstruction of eight parkway interchanges in Graves, Henderson, Hopkins, Marshall and Webster counties. I-69 eventually will run north to south from the Ohio River at Henderson to the Tennessee border at Fulton, using sections of the present Pennyrile, Western Kentucky and Purchase parkways. Fifty-five miles of the corridor already is designated I-69.
Downtown Crossing (Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project)
The Governor’s plan follows through on the commitment of $250 million in traditional funding for the Downtown Crossing – a new I-65 bridge and approaches between Louisville and Jeffersonville, Ind. Included is a reconstruction of the Kennedy Interchange, where I-65, I-64 and I-71 merge. The Downtown Crossing is half of the two-bridge Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project being jointly developed with Indiana. The Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority in December sold $728 million in toll revenue bonds and bond anticipation notes with which to complete the Downtown Crossing. Kentucky also secured a $452.2 million federal loan under TIFIA – the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. TIFIA funds will be used to pay the bond anticipation notes in 2017.
Brent Spence Bridge Project
The Recommended Highway Plan provides $60 million of traditional federal highway funds with which to facilitate the project to build a second bridge alongside the Brent Spence to carry I-75 and part of I-71. The plan also recommends using $1.78 billion of toll-based revenue bonds to complete the project. The Brent Spence, which opened in 1963, presently carries all of I-75 and I-71, plus local traffic, between Cincinnati and Covington. Under plans for the project, I-75 traffic and southbound I-71 traffic would be switched to the new bridge.