Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Governor awards bids for Sebree interstate interchange

J-E News Editor
Webster County is now one step closer to getting it’s Interstate 69 shielding as Governor Steve Beshear announced last week the awarding of a contract for improvements needed to bring the Highway 56 interchange near Sebree on the Breathitt-Pennyrile Parkway up to interstate highway standards.

 Dumey Contracting was awarded the contract on a low bid of $10 million. The project has a completion date of Oct. 1, 2015.
“This is another important step toward completion of I-69 in western Kentucky,” Gov. Beshear said. “An additional interstate route means additional opportunity for economic development in western Kentucky and, indeed, throughout the Commonwealth. And the improvements being made in the I-69 corridor will result in safer, more efficient travel through the region.”
The Pennyrile Parkway opened in October of 1969 as a toll road at a cost of $69.2 million. The Sebree Interchange was originally designed as a toll plaza, and although the toll booths were removed in 1992, the interchange has never been redesigned. Interstate standards require that motorists have the ability to enter and exit the roadway at 70 mph.
In Sebree the construction will most likely require blasting on the south side of the interchange in order to build ramps through the existing rock hillside.
Many people native to this region might not understand the significance of the ‘Interstate’ designation. Western Kentucky residents are familiar with the Pennyrile Parkway and the Western Kentucky Parkway, which vary very little from the U.S.’s interstate system. Both are limited-access roadways with high speed limits.
But in other parts of the country, ‘parkway’ can have a totally different meaning. Many parkways have been built as scenic drives, such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, a two-lane, 469 mile roadway that stretches from Asheville, NC to Roanoke, VA. It has a maximum speed limit of 45 mph.
Companies looking to locate in an area often look for the Interstate designation because all interstates are held to the same standards.
“I-69 is extremely important for our region, and this updated interchange will play a key role in that development,” said Rep. Jim Gooch of Providence. “Making it easier for drivers to merge with traffic will also increase the safety for those of us who use this interchange.  I’m certainly pleased to see this project move ahead and want to thank Gov. Beshear and the Transportation Cabinet for making it possible.”
The contract to Dumey was the second awarded this year for the I-69 corridor. The first, to Hall Contracting of Kentucky Inc., was for improvement of a 36.4-mile stretch of the Breathitt-Pennyrile Parkway in Hopkins, Webster and Henderson counties. It has a completion date of August 2015.
Once complete, I-69 in Kentucky will run north to south from the Ohio River at Henderson to the Tennessee border at Fulton. Completion of the corridor requires improvements to portions of three Kentucky parkways, all of which originally were toll roads – the Breathitt-Pennyrile, Ford-Western Kentucky and Carroll-Purchase parkways.
“I-69 is the most important infrastructure project Western Kentucky has seen in decades,” said Sen. Dorsey Ridley, of Henderson. “It is an integral part of Western Kentucky’s future and these improvements will lead to economic benefits for our region and state. I am very pleased to see this project moving forward because of the positive impact that will ensue. Thanks to the leadership of Governor Steve Beshear, I-69 will be a reality before his term ends.”
To date, 55 miles of the corridor are complete – from roughly Nortonville to the interchange of I-24 and the Carroll-Purchase Parkway near Gilbertsville – and bear the red, white and blue shields of I-69. The first shield was unveiled by Gov. Beshear and then-Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez in October 2011.
A major challenge of the I-69 corridor project has been the need to rebuild interchanges that were designed to accommodate drivers who were slowing and stopping at toll plazas – as opposed to merging with or exiting from 70 mph interstate traffic.
Reconstruction of the KY 416 interchange in Henderson County is underway, as is reconstruction of the Pennyrile Parkway-Western Kentucky Parkway interchange, near Nortonville. With the awarding of a contract for a new interchange near Sebree, the only interchange remaining is the KY 813 interchange with the Breathitt-Pennyrile near Mortons Gap. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet expects to put it out for bids in January 2015. 

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