"It's moving quickly.
Amber Hale, public information officer for Kentucky Department of Highways' District 8, was talking about right-of-way acquisition to make way for construction of a cloverleaf interchange at the junction of Ky. 80 and Ky. 461, and expanding Ky. 461 to four lanes from Ky. 80 to near Buck Creek bridge.
"We have to move quickly" because of federal BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) grant involvement, the project must be under construction by September 2020, Hale noted. More than 50 parcels of right-of-way have to be acquired for the project " ... and that is what takes the longest time," she said.
Hale expects a construction contract to be let late next spring or early summer. Some $25 million in federal (BUILD) funds and $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.
Despite Highway Department plans to expand Ky. 80 (Hal Rogers Parkway) to interstate standards from Somerset to Rockcastle River, current highway buzz is to four-lane Ky. 461 from Ky. 80 to Mt. Vernon. Design is already underway to four-lane Ky. 461 from near McDonald's restaurant in Mt. Vernon south to the junction with U.S. 150. Efforts by former Mayor Eddie Girdler to four lane Ky. 461 have continued into Mayor Alan Keck's administration. Chris Girdler, president and CEO of SPEDA (Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority), has indicated that is high on his priority list.
Somerset and Pulaski County do not have a four-lane highway to I-75. Both Ky. 80, leading to South I-75, and Ky. 461, leading to North I-75 have been improved during the last quarter century, but there are long stretches on both highways where passing is difficult or impossible.
The planned cloverleaf interchange will eliminate the dangerous intersection at Ky. 80 and Ky. 461. The problem there is sight distance, specifically looking east toward Shopville. The intersection was improved several years ago but it didn't solve the problem.
The cloverleaf interchange will link Ky. 80, Ky. 461 and the still-to-be-built eastern end of Somerset's northern bypass
The northern bypass, now ending at U.S. 27 about two miles north of Somerset, is part of I-66, the approved corridor of which extends through Shopville, Stab and Squib and to I-75 south of London near the weigh station. Transportation Cabinet officials says this corridor through the Daniel Boone National Forest is still viable, but with existing plans to create an interstate along Ky. 80 to the Rockcastle River, it's highly unlikely two parallel interstate highways will be built between Somerset and London.