Whitley to get $22.5 million in state road funds
Whitley County will receive roughly $22.5 million in funding for local road projects as part of a funding plan, passed by the Kentucky General Assembly, and signed into law by Gov. Steve Beshear last week.
The funding is part of a two-year spending bill for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, although the state's road plan projects out spending up until the 2018 fiscal year.
In Whitley County, four projects are proposed, all of which are expected to begin their first phase either this year or in 2013.
The largest of the projects is a projected $11,860,000 effort to widen US25W in south Corbin from KY 727 to the Corbin Bypass (KY 3041).
Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney said local leaders have been actively pushing the proposal for several years as a way to alleviate safety and traffic congestion issues associated with heavy traffic in the area.
"It's much needed. It's been a real problem," McBurney said. "Right now, when we have events at The Arena, especially big ones, traffic will back up on the interstate all the way to KY 312. It was a hazard even before The Arena and it is worse now."
McBurney added that the area is also often a source of traffic woes because of Baptist Regional Medical Center.
"That is a busy hospital out there. There's a lot of people coming and going, so we hope it will help with that."
McBurney said the plan involves widening the road way and adding another road or lane specifically for traffic going to The Arena.
The project is broken up into four phases, the first of which is set to begin in 2013 and will cost about $1,345,000. Two phases are slated for 2015 and the final, presumably construction phase, will take place in 2017 at a cost of $7,580,000.
While the state's road plan projects out funding until the 2018 fiscal year, in reality, funding is only guaranteed for two years. That's because the state operates on a biennial budget.
McBurney conceded that politics often delays or derails projects, he's hopeful it doesn't happen in this case.
"Things have a way of taking a funny turn, but you have to start somewhere," McBurney said. "You've got to have a plan, then you just go from there. Hopefully, we can build on the plan."
Also funded are three projects, two of which are in unincorporated portions of Whitley County.
The first, and perhaps most vital, is a $2,775,000 plan to replace a bridge going over Jellico Creek on KY 92W about a mile east of KY 189. Funding for that particular project is guaranteed since it is all slated to take place this year and in 2013 over two phases.
"That is very important because it is one of the biggest obstacles to 92W being a major freight route," said Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White Jr. "That would allow a lot of truck traffic to McCreary County and areas west of Williamsburg ... it is of great importance to that area and for the growth of Williamsburg."
White said the biggest problem with the current bridge is that is that it is old, narrow, and has low weight limits. Also, it is prone to flooding.
A $1,625,000 project to replace a bridge over Patterson Creek a quarter mile east of KY 904 is also expected to begin this year. It will take place in four phases, beginning with design and planning in 2012. It is expected to be complete in 2016.
A $6.21 million project to reconstruct KY 2386 south of "Bailey's Curve" to the intersection of South Second Street in Williamsburg is also in the plan. It is scheduled to begin this year and wrap up in 2014.
Absent from the road plan is a $770,000 project inserted by Kentucky Senate President David Williams (R-Burkesville) to extend a road out to the new Whitley County Industrial Park. Beshear vetoed the proposal and it was stripped from the road budget.
White said he was disappointed by the veto, but is hopeful that the project can be funded with money set aside at the state level for economic development.
"We've been in touch with the governor's office and they are suggesting could be done that way," White said. "The Governor's office is telling us there is a substantial chance of getting that funding through other avenues."
White said the road is important for future growth of the park. Already, Patriot Bioenergy is planning a large-scale project to grow sugar beets in the area as a source of fuel. It is in the pilot stages now with small plots of beets already growing. White said the company is looking to expand to "test fields" before moving into larger production. If things pan out, then a road would be a vital thoroughfare for the company.
In the tri-county area, Laurel County was the largest beneficiary of the plan. Laurel got $129.3 million in funding for projects. Knox County received $19.2 million.
All fields but Phone Number are required to submit a comment, but contact information is for internal communication only.