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By JOHN FRIEDLEIN
HARDIN COUNTY — Officials from Elizabethtown have helped restore funding for the extension of Ring Road to the Western Kentucky Parkway.
State Transportation Secretary Joe Prather, who is from Elizabethtown, this week announced a 2008 Highway Plan that includes the Ring Road work, which could spur development in the southern part of the county and help the area deal with growth from the Fort Knox realignment.
Gov. Steve Beshear included the project in a February plan he submitted to the legislature. House members had the Ring Road project in their plan, but it wasn’t in the Senate’s version, said Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown. The Senate’s proposal, in fact, included only the widening of North Miles Street in its two-year plan for Hardin County, he said. The area will receive $50 million for roads because of the Fort Knox realignment, but this doesn’t necessarily meet highway construction needs, Lee said.
In general, the legislature’s handling of highway funds this year has been controversial. For the first time since Kentucky has used a comprehensive highway plan, lawmakers passed it in the form of a separate statute — a move that would have “rendered the administration unable to make the adjustments that are always needed when implementing hundreds of road and bridge projects,” according to a news release from the governor’s office.
The Highway Plan is usually a memo attached to the budget.
Beshear vetoed the General Assembly bill. And Prather’s plan that replaces it is the same as the one Beshear had submitted earlier, but with an extra $317 million in projects that lawmakers proposed.
Actually, the Senate took a bill Lee sponsored dealing with taxi and limo certification — deleted the original provisions — and used the bill number for its road plan.
Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, has filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of Beshear’s move.
Lee met with Prather and the governor’s office to push the case for the Ring Road construction.
“I’m just pleased the governor listens to us,” Lee said. “This funding is so important.”
He said the area couldn’t afford to have the $15.8 million project delayed.
Also beneficial to the extension, a local judge earlier this month ruled in favor of the state in a private property issue that could have held it up.
The road eventually is planned to connect with Interstate 65, easing access to the town’s industrial park.
And the Beshear news release called the Ring Road project “crucial to the expansion of Fort Knox.”
Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, said the road construction will benefit the entire region. He also sees promise in the expansion of Ky. 313 to Brandenburg.
“We’re already sort of a crossroads of Kentucky,” he said.
Other local projects in Prather’s proposal include improving the capacity of the interchange at Interstate 65 and Ky. 222 at the Glendale exit and improving traffic flow on U.S. 31W.
John Friedlein can be reached at (270) 505-1746.