The Pulaski County spokesperson for Gov. Andy Beshear and the state representative in whose district the accident-prone Ky. 80- Ky.461 junction lies both say the planned cloverleaf project will be in the Cabinet's September construction contract lettings.
"Yes it will," declared Rodney Casada, also the chair of the Pulaski County Democratic Party. He said his assurance came from the office of Jim Gray, Kentucky's Transportation Secretary.
State Representative Tommy Turner told the Commonwealth Journal Wednesday: "I have a commitment from the governor's office and the Transportation Cabinet the cloverleaf interchange project will be in the September contract lettings." Turner was instrumental in getting $22 million in the Transportation Cabinet's budget for the cloverleaf interchange. The funds also will widen Ky. 461 to four lanes from Ky. 80 north to near Buck Creek bridge.
Amber Hale, public information officer for Kentucky Highway Department's District 8, said her district office does not have a commitment but the Cabinet is "working" to include the projects in September construction contract lettings. However, she laughingly noted politicians have ability to get inside information.
The original contract letting date was in June, but delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed the project back. Hale said various emergency projects fill August lettings and September is the next possible time for the cloverleaf interchange. "But that could change," Hale commented.
Both Hale and Turner said delays will not affect status of the $25 million in federal BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) grant money for the project. Original BUILD grant specifications called for the new interchange to be under construction by September.
Some $25 million in federal funds and the $22 million in the State Transportation Cabinet's budget have been approved for the project. Pulaski Fiscal Court floated a $5 million bond issue as the community's part in financing the cloverleaf interchange.
Some 55 pieces of right-of-way have been obtained which also will make way for widening Ky. 461. Passersby may have noticed the Dollar General Store near Ky.80-Ky.461 junction was a part of the right-of-way acquisition and the store has moved westward to a new location near Barnesburg.
Also, Hale said other business places purchased as part of the right-of-way project were a 70-unit storage facility along Ky. 461 and an out-of-business gasoline station off Ky. 80 just east of the intersection.
Efforts are under way to four lane Ky. 461 all the way from Ky. 80 to Mt. Vernon and I-75. On the northern end at Mt. Vernon, design is being done to make Ky. 461 four lanes from near McDonald's south to the intersection with U.S. 150. Turner said he worked with former State Representative Jonathan Shell on the design project. Shell, of Lancaster, lost his reelection bid to Travis Brenda, a math teacher from Berea.
Recently, Chris Girdler, president and CEO of SPEDA (Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority), said SPEDA wrote a letter to the governor, our federal congressional delegation along with our state legislators identifying and promoting our two biggest road projects we believe would have the greatest impact on the community and region. Ky. 461 four laned to I-75 and making Cumberland Parkway an I-65 Spur from Bowling Green to Somerset are our top two priorities Girdler said.