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Transportation in Kentucky


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Today's roadtrip took me into the heart of Kentucky, along the proposed Heartland Parkway and the extension of KY 555. Along the way, I stopped at numerous small towns, dined at quaint cafes and picked up

literature for future trips and guides! Photographs can be found --


1. Departed Lexington via US 27/Lexington Road towards Nicholsaville. Per an earlier post yesterday, US 27 from Man o' War Blvd. to Nicholasville was actually closed in the very late 1980s for widening to four-lanes. Today, the four-lane highway is over-capacity and should be widened to at least six-lanes, with median barriers and frontage roads.

2. US 27 from Nicholasville's bypass south to 2 miles north of the Kentucky River crossing was widened from two-lanes to four-lane divided in the early 2000s. It features a gravel median and is hideous, as it stands out sharply against the rolling bluegrass hills. Shame on you Kentucky!

3. A future tourist center is planned just south of the Kentucky River crossing on US 27. It is accessible for southbound travellers only, however. The road is paved but drops off to bare rock soon

afterwards - a real treat for my SUV! Land was sold just the other day in the vicinity for a future state park - already the home of the Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve! Kudos Kentucky!

4. US 27 is slated for four-lane widening from the end of the four-lane section at KY 1845 to Lancaster. It was rebuilt in the early 1960s as a two-lane facility with grass shoulders, and is congested and features no turn lanes. The beautiful landscape, full of rolling hay fields and cow pastures, is only scarred at Camp Dick just north of KY 34 and two small subdivisions near Marksbury and Bryantville.

5. Took KY 52 west from Lancaster, which is a wonderful drive to Danville.

6. The US 150 bypass has been widened to four-lanes, from two on four-lane ROW, from US 127 east to Business US 150. The other portion of the bypass, west of US 127 to Business US 127, was in the same setup but widened a few years aog.

7. Took US 127 south to Junction City and then west along KY 37. It is a scenic drive, with little in the way of development. I took KY 1822 to Parksville and KY 300, and followed an old railroad grade west

to Gravel Switch. This former line would be an excellent canadiate for a rail trail; I explored it previously, and it is in excellent conditon. You know, there is a reason why Kentucky is rated as one of the most unhealthiest states...

8. Took US 68 west of Gravel Switch, which was reconstructed to two-lanes with grass shoulders a few years ago - due to the beautiful terrain that surrounds it. The improvement ends about two miles west of Gravel Switch, however, it is planned to improvements to Lebanon.

9. Lebanon has a beautiful downtown, with a sturdy building stock. The informal bypass, Corporate Drive/KY 2154, is a narrow-ish two-lane road with no shoulders; I believe it was a piecemeal route as it is not KYTC-material.

10. Took KY 55 north of Lebanon to Springfield, which is an improved two-lane road with paved shoulders. This section is quite new, having been constructed only several years ago. It is on two-lane ROW.

11. Took KY 528 into downtown Springfield; it is part of old KY 55. I ate at a wonderful cafe (forgot the name though!), and stopped in the Main Street Program/Tourism Information Center, which is located in an old Opera House, for some discussions!

12. Leaving Springfield, I took KY 555 north which is a continuation of the improved KY 55 route to the south. Turn lanes desperately need adding at KY 528.

13. Took KY 528 north to the Lincoln Homestead State Park; unfortunately, the drive is littered with homes along the road and new subdivisions, spoiling the outstanding scenery of the region. The state park was also closed, however, I managed to grab photographs in 35F weather and 20 MPH winds!

14. Continued back on KY 555 to the Bluegrass Parkway. It is a standard two-lane route with shoulders, however, the shoulders need reinforcing as many are reverting back to gravel and grass.

15. KY 555 is being extended north of the Bluegrass Parkway. The segment from the Bluegrass Parkway to Chaplin River is graded and has a strong based installed, however, the river crossing was under construction when I visited it. I managed to grab a photograph from a farm, whose barn literally rests next to a steep downslope for the highway!

16. I took some back roads on the other side of the Chaplin River and discovered the KY 555 extension veers sharply east , nearly touching the three-county border of Nelson, Anderson and Washington. It parallels US 62 to the south, in a valley, so that the scenery of US 62 is not ruined. US 62 is a beautiful and undeveloped highway, and driving it today, you cannot tell the new highway is only 1/2 mile away!

17. KY 555 junctions US 62 at KY 248, the route to Taylorsville Lake. KY 248 is an unimproved two-lane route, not two-lanes wide at some points, however, it handles boat and large vehicle traffic from the lake! KY 555 parallels this to the east.

18. KY 248 (becoming KY 44 later), was improved from KY 3358 to Taylorsville as part of the Taylorsville Lake Project. At the junction with KY 3358, the KY 555 work ends. The two-lane segments of KY 248 need shoulders, however.

19. The improved road turns north from Taylorsville along KY 55 and then KY 155 to Louisville. I split off at the northern KY 55 branch to Shelbyville. This section, however, is littered with subdivisions in rolling pasture and horse farms, and in 20 years, I guarantee you that there will only be a scattering of farms left. >:(

Now for news on the Heartland Parkway! It is defined as --

"The route recommended in the study for the 63-mile corridor begins at the new KY 61 interchange on the Louie B. Nunn Parkway south of Columbia and extends to the KY 555 interchange on the Martha Layne Collins Bluegrass Parkway in Washington County."

This encompasses the route I took north of Lebanon to the Bluegrass Parkway, via KY 55 and KY 555. The section from Lebanon to Springfield was reconstructed only a few years ago. The type of route will be a four-lane, limited-access facility with no driveway intersections and frontage roads, and most likely interchanges at major routes. It will follow bypasses around Columbia and Lebanon, both of which are being designed as two-lane facilities; these will need upgrading (the Heartland Parkway study is quite new, compared to the bypass designs).

Enjoy this trip report! Again, photographs are at --


Selected images ---


KY 248 travels south and east from KY 44 and Taylorsville. It was reconstructed on new terrain, for the most part, in conjunction with the Taylorsville Lake Project.


This future KY 555 alignment is viewed from Love Ridge Road, just off of US 62, in Anderson County.

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  • 6 months later...

Bridge project tunnels' cost rises: Exploratory shaft will plot path for two others

By Marcus Green, The Courier-Journal [Louisville], July 16, 2007

Later this year, the transportation cabinet will begin constructing a 12-foot-wide tunnel through limestone and shale near the interchange with Kentucky Route 841 and U.S. Route 42. The 1,800-foot-long exploratory tunnel will "plot the path" for two 2,000-foot-long highway tunnels, part of the Ohio River Bridges project. The tunnels will be located under the historic Drumanard estate, saving it from demolition and meeting a federal law regarding historic districts. The tunnel will also minimize impact on other historic districts.

The twin tunnels, at 2,000 feet, will be the second longest in the state of Kentucky, after the 4,600-foot-long Cumberland Gap Tunnel.

Originally, the tunnels were expected to cost $96.5 million using 2003 estimates. In December 2006, the cost had increased to $145.5 million. In March 2007, that had increased again to $240 million. But the rising costs, due to inflated constructed material prices, will not alter the project, because altering the project's scope will require a new federal record of decision -- federal documents that authorized the Ohio River Bridges project in 2003. Redoing the record of decision would add $14 million a month to the total cost.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Planners choose route for new interstate

By Bill Estep, Herald-Leader [Lexington], August 1, 2007

Personal comments:

I am very much opposed to Interstate 66 through Kentucky. The original proposal was for an interstate highway from Washington D.C. to California, although segments west of Kansas and east of Kentucky were ultimately dropped. Interstate 66, as it stands, will exist only in Kentucky. West Virginia is constructing "their portion" as the Coalfields Expressway, a highway that has long been in planning prior to Interstate 66's development, and as a limited-access, four-lane highway with a mixture of controlled at-grade intersections and interchanges.

Furthermore, Interstate 66 within Kentucky will follow mostly existing corridors. While a Somerset bypass is needed, a new alignment east of the city to London is not. The existing KY 80 is four-lanes from Somerset to KY 461 Shopville. KY 461 provides an excellent northern connection to Interstate 75 north, while KY 80 provides an excellent connection to the Daniel Boone Parkway and Interstate 75 south. Traffic counts from the four-lane segment from Somerset to Shopville, where the split occurs, has an AADT of just 14,380. KY 461, from Shopville to Mt. Vernon at Interstate 75, has an AADT of over 6,000, while KY 80 east of Shopville to London has an AADT of 6,000 to 7,000.

The proposed alignment for Interstate 66 east of Somerset will be mostly on new alignment, bypassing entire sections of upgraded four- and two-lane highways that were constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. These same highways also carry low traffic counts and do not warrant a new high-speed interstate highway, and feature 55 MPH speed limits (although once signed at 60 MPH). The money would be better spent improving access control by consolidating intersections wherever possible and constructing an interchange at KY 461.

Further east, Interstate 66 will overlap with the Daniel Boone Parkway (renamed after Hal Rogers, who had nothing to do with its construction), which will be upgraded to four-lanes divided under the plan. The existing former toll-road features AADTs in the low 5,000s for some segments and has no sections that currently warrant four-lane widening.

Even further east, in Pike County where the highway is being toted as an "economic development" tool, it will split in between a new four-lane US 119 and under-construction US 460. US 119 from Pikeville east to West Virginia is part of Corridor G, and most of it was upgraded from the 1970s to 2005. The final four-lane, limited-access section is nearing completion, and features very impressive valley bridges and extremely deep highwall cuts and grades. US 460, running southeast to Virginia, is being upgraded to four-lanes as part of Corridor Q at a very high expense.

Meanwhile, Interstate 66 will cut in between _both_ of these improved highways that will meet up with the Coalfields Expressway in West Virginia. The Coalfields Expressway, however, is a four-lane highway that is not being constructed to interstate standards, and the state has no plans to designate it as part of Interstate 66; instead, it will become part of US 121. Furthermore, one can take US 119 (Corridor G) to the future King Coal Highway in Williamson, West Virginia (US 52) south to the Coalfields Expressway, thereby removing any need for Interstate 66 in Pike County.

The estimated cost for Interstate 66 in Pike County alone ranges in the low $1 billion...


The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet have chosen a route that moves construction on a proposed Interstate 66 section between Somerset and London. The 30-mile section's 10 possible alternatives have been narrowed down to just one. The route would generally follow existing KY 80 east of Somerset to three miles east of the Rockcastle River, where it would turn south. It would avoid the Shopville community. This section has a $330 million price tag. Federal officials will not make a decision on the final alignment until before late 2008, and if it is approve,d it would be five to six years before construction began.

The proposal to construct an interstate between Somerset and London has been controversial since it was first introduced. Those in favor believe it would spur economic development by completing an interstate link between Interstate 75 at London to Interstate 65 near Bowling Green. KY 80 now connects the cities, although it is two-lanes in some sections. Those who oppose say that the road is not needed, as the highway crosses through sections where the average-annual daily traffic barely justifies a four-lane highway. It would also be a wasteful expenditure of money, and damage the environment, cutting through some of the most unique karst areas in the country.

A draft environmental impact statement on the proposed Somerset-London segment cited a 1997 study that concluded the road would boost employment in southern Kentucky by 8% and bring in "hundreds of millions in personal income."

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What about the western sections of this I-66 in Kentucky, any plans for that now that the nation wide project is pretty much a no go from what you are saying? Is Bowling Green the terminus for now? I think back when the coast to coast proposal was still in play I-66 was supposed to run to Wickliff and cross the river there to Cairo, where it would be able to be hooked up into I-55 and I-57 on its way west.

I enjoyed you commentary on the project. Extremely informative.

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It will use the existing parkways and interstates west of Somerset to Paducah. It would follow the Cumberland Parkway, Interstate 65, Cumberland Parkway, Western Kentucky Parkway, and Interstate 24, where it would split off towards Missouri.

Except Missouri has little intention of creating this interstate corridor, especially if states to the west have no intention. It is upgrading US 60 in the southern corridor to four-lanes, with some sections being limited-access with full control of access (i.e. interchanges only), while others are limited-access with partial control of access (i.e. at-grade intersections and interchanges, but no private entrances).

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  • 4 weeks later...

Senator proposes toll power: Ohio River bridges project could benefit

By Marcus Green and Stephenie Steitzer, The Courier-Journal, August 25, 2007

Senate President David Williams has pre-filed a bill for the 2008 legislature that would allow local governments to create agencies that would have the power to issue bonds and give them control of state and federal highway money to manage existing highways and construct new ones. The bill would also allow the governments to lease roadways to private companies and consider other methods of raising money.

The proposal comes after the Minnesota Interstate 35W bridge collapse. The Louisville metro region has its fair share of deteriorating bridges, including the Kennedy Bridge that carries Interstate 65 over the Ohio River. It has a missing anchor bolt that connects it with a supporting pier, has severe cracks on the road deck, and has worn pins that help connect the trusses. The bill, however, is primarily focused on the proposed $3.9 billion Ohio River Bridges Project, which consists of two new highway spans between Louisville and southern Indiana, and a reconstructed Spaghetti Junction interchange.

"It's an attempt to come to grips with the issue that federal highway dollars are being stretched very thinly, that there won't be assistance by the federal government to build -- in any significant way -- to build bridges over the Ohio River.

- Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville

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Flemingsburg bypass extension approved by governor

By Marla Toncray, The Ledger Independent [Maysville], August 27, 2007

A proposed extension of the Flemingsburg bypass across the north side of the Fleming county seat was approved by Governor Fletcher's office and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The project will move along six-months ahead of schedule. The extension was announced in August 2005, and design phase of the project was started. Public hearings were held soon after.

The second phase of the bypass project will re-route remaining truck traffic from downtown. It will include a new 1.5-mile route from KY 11 on the north side to Tollesboro-Mt. Carmel Rd. to KY 57.

The announcement will mean that the design phase will be sped up and allow right-of-way and utility location to begin. Construction will begin in fall 2008 instead of spring 2009. The total cost is $6 million; construction costs are estimated at $5 million and right-of-way costs are estimated at $1 million.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Effort under way for new bridge connecting Missouri, Kentucky

By Michelle Felter, Standard Democrat, September 19, 2007

The current Mississippi River bridges connecting Missouri, southern Illinois and Kentucky are narrow, outdated and dangerous. A meeting, "Bridge Summit," was held in Sikeston, Missouri, to discuss these issues.

Currently, two bridges, one carrying U.S. Route 51 and U.S. Route 60, cross from Missouri into Illinois and then Kentucky at Cairo, Illinois, where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers converge. The current bridges have been described as "old, extremely narrow and dangerously unsafe."

The bridge on U.S. Route 60 was built in 1929 and has a sufficiency rating of 18.8%, one of the worst among all Mississippi River crossings. It is listed as structurally deficient by the National Bridges Inventory. The deck width is only 20 feet and leaves little room for error, especially when tractor-trailers pass automobiles or other trucks.

The U.S. Route 51 bridge was built in 1942 and has a 44.6% sufficiency rating. It is functionally obsolete.

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Both of these great old structures need to be retired and replaced by more modern bridges as both are past their useful lives. Passing semi-trucks on either bridge can be a tad nerve-racking to say the least and requires a lot of concentration to both by both lanes of traffic to their respective margins. It would be a good infrastructure development for the region for these bridges and several others in the region to be replaced by bridges that better suit the demands of modern traffic.

These aren't the worst bridges by far in KY or the region though IMO, that honor would have to befall the LBL bridges which are absurdly dangerous in regards their narrowness. The Ledbetter bridge in Livingston County is not a very good one either, nor is the Brookston bridge linking Brookston, IL and Paducah - although that one is rather cool because it has a metal grate driving surface.

I guess at the end of the day these extremeties of KY, MO, and IL have been overlooked in regards to the updating of some of the more vital bridge infrastructure, but it sounds like in regards to the US 60 and US 51 bridges now that is starting to be addressed. As are the LBL bridges which are scheduled to be replaced as part of the the ongoing US 80 project that is expantion of the US 68/KY 80 four-lane corridor from Hopkinsville to Mayfield (with a four-lane KY 80 being the sole designation of a new corridor from Aurora to Mayfield as US 68 splits off the route at that point).

I think the Ledbetter bridge planned for replacement at some point soon too, however I don't think I have ever heard the future of the Brookston bridge addressed.

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