The state is officially moving forward with the project to extend the William Thomason Byway in Leitchfield from KY 259 to KY 54.

Despite not receiving federal "Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development" (BUILD) grant funding late last year, which would have accelerated the project by one to two years, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and consulting engineering firm American Engineers, Inc. have selected one of the five options for extending the bypass that were shown to the public last August.

Alternative E, which was developed as the eastern most alternate that is also closest to the center of Leitchfield, has been selected because it is the least expensive and also serves to improve Leitchfield and Grayson County's infrastructure. A map of the route this proposed extension will take is available for viewing at transportation.ky.gov/DistrictFour/Documents/Alternate%20E.pdf.

At an estimated $15.4 million, Alternative E is the least expensive of the five options presented last August, primarily because it is the only option that does not require the construction of a bridge and will go under the railroad tracks with which it intersects, according to Chris Jessie, public information officer for Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 4.

Alternatives A, B, C and D were estimated to cost $23.5 million, $23.8 million, $22.8 million, and $22.6 million, respectively.

Jessie said that not receiving the BUILD grant has merely slowed the project's progress but will not prevent it from moving forward; rather, it will now operate on a standard timeline, which will see the Transportation Cabinet look to garner funding when legislators set the biennial state budget next year.

A letter sent to area residents last week by American Engineers, Inc. states that the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will begin acquiring right-of-way for the project in 2020 with construction funding currently identified in year 2022 of the state's six-year highway plan.

The letter also states that American Engineers, Inc. is moving forward with Phase II of the design of the bypass extension, which entails geotechnical investigation, land surveying and development of right-of-way and final construction plans.

This work, according to Grayson County Judg-Executive Kevin Henderson, is expected to begin in the spring. An estimated date by which the project will be completed has not yet been determined.

The goal of the project is to improve traffic flow, safety and economic development by allowing motorists to avoid taking US 62 and KY 54 into congested downtown Leitchfield traffic when heading toward KY 259, officials say. It is also expected to allow drivers quicker and easier access to the Western Kentucky Parkway, which would be of benefit to the many manufacturers located west of Leitchfield that currently use US 62 and/or KY 54 to reach the parkway.

For more information about the proposed bypass extension, visit transportation.ky.gov/DistrictFour/Pages/default.aspx.