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The Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority has rejected a proposal to create a Safer 65 Project Authority, but proponents of the plan are not giving up on the concept.
“They turned me down,” said Hart County Judge-Executive Terry Martin, one of several elected officials spearheading a plan to accelerate expansion of the interstate to six lanes.
Under the Safer 65 Proposal, the final unimproved 38-mile stretch of Interstate 65 that runs from about the Park City exit north to Elizabethtown would be widened.
By defining the work as a single megaproject and bidding it at one time, the entire stretch could be complete in roughly five years, Martin has said. The public-private partnership, as proposed to the state before by Scotty’s Contracting, would offer financing as part of any formal bid, allowing the state to pay back the cost over a period of time. Preliminary estimates have put the cost of expanding the stretch of roadway at about $587 million.
The plan has been backed by local and state officials in Barren, Hardin, Hart and LaRue counties, with most pointing to the danger the road poses and the number of wrecks as an impetus for action.
But in a letter written to Martin, the KPTIA said it was forced to reject the plan because it is uncertain how an ongoing, multi-year road project could coexist with a directive issued by the legislature not to designate project money beyond what is appropriated in the biennial highway plan.
The KPTIA, however, did encouraged Martin to continue working with the General Assembly to clarify how a multi-year project could mesh with the two-year budget process.
Martin said Thursday that he will heed the advice and approach the legislature during its next session.
Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Berry, a supporter of the Safer 65 Project Authority’s creation, said it may prove difficult to push such a large project through committees and designate so much funding to a small area, particularly with legislators who may feel the money could be used in their district.
In addition to financial concerns, Berry said he also believes there is some reluctance toward the Safer 65 proposal because of its effect on the bidding process. Martin has said the project would not undermine the current bidding structure, but Berry said some feel it may alter the “equilibrium” of traditional bidding.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or email@example.com.