Improvements to Warren County’s dangerously winding Ky. 185 (Richardsville Road) – which have been talked about, and even partially funded, in years past – might finally be a top priority for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
Gov. Andy Beshear’s 2020 Recommended Highway Plan, which was released last week, has upgrades to two sections of the road among the projects recommended for funding in the 2020-21 biennium of the six-year highway plan. KYTC documents that show two projects totaling 2.84 miles of Ky. 185 and costing a total of $14.3 million in federal funds are among the priority items to be funded over the next two years.
Like all the projects on the highway plan, the improvements to Ky. 185 could be altered or eliminated once the plan reaches the General Assembly. But for now, local elected officials are optimistic that a serpentine road that has been the site of numerous accidents over the years will get some long-awaited enhancements.
“I’m sure the residents out here will be happy,” said Mark Young, Fifth District magistrate on Warren Fiscal Court. “It’s a busy road, and there are a lot of accidents on it. Those sections will be widened and straightened. It’s certainly much needed.”
The recommended highway plan calls for improving a 1.84-mile stretch of the road from 0.24 miles south of Pruitt Road to 0.16 miles south of Ky. 1320. That stretch has $830,000 budgeted for utility relocation this year and $8.53 million for construction in 2021.
Another one-mile stretch, this one from 0.22 miles north of Austin Raymer Road to 0.08 miles south of the bridge over Ivy Creek, has $300,000 in utility relocation funding this year and $4,665,000 in construction funding in 2021.
State Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Brownsville, while cautioning that past highway plans have included more projects than funding allowed and were thus trimmed, believes the Ky. 185 upgrades are needed.
“I’m glad to see that funded,” he said. “It’s a safety hazard out there.”
That was confirmed just last month, when a motorist was killed in a single-car crash on Ky. 185. That fatality was a continuation of a trend that saw the curvy road claim two traffic deaths in 2016 and three more in 2017.
“Ky. 185 is certainly an important project,” said Wes Watt, public information officer for KYTC’s District 3 office in Bowling Green. “There have been a number of crashes and fatalities on that road. Anything we can do to address that will help.”
Young said the Ky. 185 projects included in the current biennium represent something of a compromise from past proposals.
“The first proposal was to change the whole route of the road,” he said. “It had reached the point that they had already bought some property and were doing environmental studies.
“Then this project kinda fell off the charts. Now they’re proposing to do it in phases and do the worst parts first.”
That’s in keeping with the overall emphasis of a Recommended Highway Plan that makes safety a priority. A KYTC news release said the plan features a biennium investment of $100 million to improve safety conditions on rural roads through a combination of state money and funds from the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program.
The recommended plan includes $8 million in the biennium to install more than 100 miles of guardrails across the state, and it includes $367.5 million to accelerate progress on the Mountain Parkway and Interstate 69 Ohio River Crossing projects.
“This plan delivers on our commitment to invest in long-awaited regional access projects that can open up economic opportunities in rural regions while providing a responsible approach to improving our highway infrastructure statewide,” Beshear said in a news release. “The plan also focuses on highway safety programs and projects designed to make our rural roads and school access safer for our children and families who use these roads every day.”
One such school safety project in Warren County is included in the current biennium. The recommended plan calls for $140,000 in right-of-way purchases and $260,000 for utility relocation this year and $260,000 next year for construction of a left-turn lane on Ky. 242 into Rich Pond Elementary School.
Also included in funding for the current biennium are three projects involving U.S. 31-W, including $11.69 million in 2021 for widening and improvements to a 2.6-mile stretch of U.S. 31-W from south of Ky. 242 (Rich Pond Road) to Dillard Road.
A separate 31-W project devotes $1.5 million for right-of-way purchases and $1.75 million for utility relocation in 2021 for a “minor widening” project covering 0.97 miles from Park Street to Fairview Avenue. Construction on that stretch is estimated to cost $4.5 million and is on the highway plan for 2023.
A 1.25-mile widening project on U.S. 31-W from Campbell Lane to Oaklawn Way is allocated $1.75 million in 2021 for right-of-way purchases. Utility relocation, estimated to cost $5.8 million, is on the highway plan for 2022.
Also recommended for funding in the current biennium is a $1.25 million project to address deficiencies of the Ky. 1435 bridge over the Gasper River.
A project to improve safety and mobility at the Interstate 165/U.S. 231 interchange is recommended for construction funding of $4.2 million in 2021 and the same amount in 2022.
Included in the Recommended Highway Plan but not in the current biennium’s budget are:
- improvements to an 11.29-mile stretch of I-65 through Warren County estimated to cost $14.85 million.
- widening of U.S. 231 (Scottsville Road) from Pascoe Boulevard to Cave Mill Road, costing an estimated $3.4 million.
- extension of the five-lane section of Ky. 234 (Cemetery Road) from mile marker 11.9 to 12.4, possibly including a roundabout.
– More information about the 2020 Recommended Highway Plan can be found at the KYTC’s transportation. ky.gov website.