Governor Steve Beshear announced the awarding of a construction contract to complete the widening of Interstate 65 – the finale of one of his administration’s highest transportation priorities.
“When this final project has been completed, I-65 will be six lanes wide from the Ohio River to the Tennessee border,” Gov. Beshear said. “Because of the importance of I-65 as a commercial and travel corridor, its widening will rank as one of the most significant investments ever made in the interest of business, efficiency and highway safety.”
A Kentucky company, Scotty’s Contracting and Stone LLC, of Glasgow, submitted the low bid of $68.6 million – some $11 million below the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s own estimate – for the job of widening I-65 from Sonora to the Western Kentucky Parkway interchange at Elizabethtown. The project area is 10 miles long, and the contract calls for completion of the project by November 2018.
I-65 in Kentucky is 137.3 miles long, from the Ohio River at Louisville to the Tennessee border near Franklin, in Simpson County. Along the way, it threads through or near Shepherdsville, Elizabethtown and Bowling Green. It is one of the nation’s premier freight corridors, with a heavy volume of commercial vehicle traffic.
I-65 is one of the nation’s premier freight corridors, with a heavy volume of commercial vehicle traffic. It also has been the scene of frequent and heavy traffic congestion, with correspondingly high crash rates. Completion of its widening will cap the Beshear administration’s ongoing work to make I-65 safer.
Beginning in 2008, first year of the administration, the Transportation Cabinet deployed approximately 45 miles of median cable barriers and temporary concrete barriers along stretches of I-65 to combat “crossover” crashes. Those were interim steps taken until the roadway could be widened and fitted with permanent barriers.
“I welcome today’s announcement,” said Sen. Dennis Parrett, of Elizabethtown. “In addition to improving traffic flow, it will make I-65 safer. We need to come together and do everything humanly possible to make this stretch of road less treacherous. I truly hope this project helps cut down on the number of wrecks on I-65.”
“Interstate 65 has become a major economic corridor in Kentucky for both industry and tourism,” said Rep. Bart Rowland, of Tompkinsville. “I’m hopeful that once the widening of I-65 through Kentucky is complete, we’ll see more businesses locate or expand between Louisville and the Tennessee border. The widening of the interstate will hopefully also improve safety and help reduce the number of accidents we’ve seen in the past.”
“Widening of I-65 is one of the greater needs for our region to ensure adequate safety for the people,” said Rep. Linda Belcher, of Shepherdsville. “I have advocated for all phases of this project and applaud the Governor’s administration for making this a transportation priority. With improved results in Bullitt County, ending the bottleneck for travelers will protect our tourism industry that has provided the significant economic impact needed for our area.”
The widening of I-65 is but the latest in a series of actions taken by Gov. Beshear to modernize transportation in the Commonwealth through strategic infrastructure investments.
Chief among them – and the most challenging of the lot – is the Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project, which will double cross-river capacity on I-65 in downtown Louisville and, in eastern Jefferson County, cross the river with a second new bridge to complete an expressway loop around the greater Louisville region.
“The Ohio River Bridges project will enhance Louisville’s already impressive credentials as a hub for logistics and transportation,” Gov. Beshear said. “It also represents a triumph of bipartisanship.
“When Mitch Daniels was Governor of Indiana, he and I reached across party and state lines and resolved to find a way to build the bridges project after decades of stalemate. It didn’t matter that he was a Republican and I was a Democrat. What did matter was the public good,” Gov. Beshear said.
The Ohio River Bridges project is indicative of the Beshear administration’s focus on creating or completing strategic connections within Kentucky’s transportation system. Other prime examples:
· Construction of new, four-lane bridges to carry U.S. 68/KY 80 over Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. The new bridges will replace a pair of ancient, two-lane spans – the Eggners Ferry and Henry Lawrence Memorial bridges – too narrow for modern traffic. A new Kentucky Lake bridge is nearing completion, while a new Lake Barkley bridge will be open to traffic by October 2017.
· Widening of U.S. 68/KY 80 to complete a four-lane, 65 mph corridor from Mayfield to Bowling Green. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) will take bids in November on contracts to complete the last remaining two-lane section – Cadiz to Lake Barkley in Trigg County. In addition, the speed limit is being raised to 65 mph on most of the stretch of KY 80 already four lanes wide from Mayfield to Aurora in Graves, Calloway and Marshall counties.
· Implementation of I-69 from the Ohio River at Henderson to the Tennessee border at Fulton. The corridor comprises three state parkways – the Breathitt/Pennyrile, Ford/Western Kentucky and Carroll/Purchase – that are being modernized to meet interstate standards.
· Completion and extension of the Pennyrile Parkway from Hopkinsville to I-24. It formed yet another four-lane, border-to-border corridor, from Henderson to the Tennessee line.
· Expansion and extension of the Mountain Parkway, to create a wider, safer connection between eastern Kentucky and the rest of the Commonwealth. When completed, it will close the last remaining gap in a four-lane, 400-mile corridor from Paducah to Pikeville.
Another of the Beshear administration’s milestones in transportation was its rapid action to repair the Eggners Ferry Bridge on Kentucky Lake when a cargo ship drifted off course and struck the bridge, destroying a 320-foot section. The bridge was repaired and reopened in just 121 days, shortly before Memorial Day and the beginning of the vital summer tourism season, averting an economic calamity for the tourism-rich Jackson Purchase.
Gov. Beshear also made a high priority of improving KYTC’s public service. A state-of-the-art Customer Service Center, staffed by Kentuckians in Frankfort, was created to replace an antiquated telephone system. The new call center resolved its 2 millionth customer request in July of this year.