Soon-to-retire State Representative Tommy Turner says money is in place and he doesn’t think the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown will affect construction of the cloverleaf interchange at Ky. 80 and Ky. 461. The interchange is Turner’s brainchild and he got about $22 million for the project in the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s budget.
Nobody at the Highway Department District 8 offices could be contacted Thursday but Amber Hale, public information officer for District 8, said earlier a construction contract for the $47 million interchange and Ky. 461 project is scheduled to be let in June. Turner said with other monies involved the interchange is about a $60 million project.
Some $25 million in federal funds and the $22 million in the State Transportation Cabinet’s budget have been approved for the project that will create a cloverleaf interchange at the dangerous junction of east-west Ky. 80 and north-south Ky. 461. It also will four-lane Ky. 461 north to Buck Creek bridge.
Turner advocates four-laning Ky. 461 all the way to Mt. Vernon and I-75. “That needs doing,” he said. Currently, in Mt. Vernon, a section of Ky. 461 from McDonald’s south to U.S. 150 is under design to be widened to four lanes.
Somerset and Pulaski County don’t have four-lane access to north-south I-75. Since most of the nation’s traffic is in a north-south direction, Turner and others believe four-laning Ky. 461 to Mt. Vernon would be better I-75 access than would Ky. 80 to London, designated as a route of the proposed I-66.
The cloverleaf interchange east of Somerset will serve Ky. 80, Ky. 461 and the future extension of Somerset’s northern bypass. The still-to-be-built eastern section of the northern bypass will extend from U.S. 27 about two miles north of Somerset across Ky. 39 to Ky. 80. The previously chosen corridor junction for the northern bypass at Ky. 80 will be moved eastward from near Barnesburg to connect with the cloverleaf interchange.
A four-lane Ky. 461 will make it easier for hundreds of trucks and cars going in and out of Valley Oak Commerce Complex and Valley Oak Technology Complex. It also will accommodate the 4 million tourists who use Ky. 461 each summer on the way to Lake Cumberland, according to Congressman Hal Rogers and Senator Mitch McConnell, both of whom assisted with approval of $25 million in federal money.
Turner, before his term ends in January, expects to be called back to Frankfort in special session to complete the second year of a two-year budget. Turner has been a member of the House of Representative since 1997.
“I have no regrets about choosing not to run for reelection,” Turner said Thursday. When he decided to retire, he said: “I think it is time for me to take a break and move on to the next step in my life. People have told me: ‘When it’s time you’ll know.’” Turner said.
“I’m 67 and I don’t have the energy I once had. I’ve had a job since I was 15 years old. There is tremendous stress to this job and stress bothers me more.”
“Things have changed so much in the political world ... we’re destroying our country,” continued Turner, referring to partisanship that blocks efforts to govern. Turner, a Republican, prides himself in crossing the aisle, working with Democrats to get things done.