Thursday, June 10, 2004

New lanes for I-75 on hold

Budget impasse blocks funds for project

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FORT MITCHELL - A third lane will be added to both directions of Interstate 75 over a nearly 30-mile stretch from just south of Crittenden to northern Scott County.

But planning and construction on the multimillion-dollar project must wait until state lawmakers enact a two-year budget, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Clay Bailey told a gathering of Northern Kentucky home builders Wednesday.

The addition of north and south lanes on I-75 from mile marker 163 in Grant County to mile marker 138 north of Georgetown is part of a $440 million federal plan to improve three major interstates in Kentucky, Bailey said during a lunch sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Northern Kentucky.

Work is also planned on Interstate 64 east of Louisville and Interstate 65 south of Bowling Green. But the projects are dependent on $116 million in state money.

And that money won't be allocated until "we get a budget passed," Bailey said.

After being unable to agree on a tax reform plan that Gov. Ernie Fletcher proposed, lawmakers left Frankfort in late April without passing a two-year budget. Spending on major road projects is on hold until a new budget is approved.

Bailey said spending on roads is key to bringing jobs to the state and region.

"Roads are the arteries of economic development," he said.

Interstate 75 needs improvement because, although most of the highway is three or more lanes, it narrows to two between Crittenden and Scott County.

Driving on those two lanes is "like being in a truck race," Bailey said.

Despite the budget impasse, dollars are flowing to Northern Kentucky for projects that were previously approved and funded under earlier spending plans.

More than $90 million in projects are in the planning or early construction stages, including work in Florence, Covington and Boone County.

Bailey said six projects totaling about $60 million already have been completed in the vicinity of the Kentucky Speedway, which is about 35 miles south of downtown Cincinnati.

The road projects will help the speedway attract a Nextel Cup race, the top tier of professional auto racing, Bailey said.


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