Gov. Beshear Announces Plan to Complete Widening of U.S. 68/KY 80; Raising Speed Limit on KY 80 West of Kentucky Lake
MURRAY, Ky. (Oct. 7, 2015) - Governor Steve Beshear today announced two long-anticipated developments for improved transportation in the tourism-rich "Western Waterlands" area of western Kentucky.
Gov. Beshear said the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) will take bids in November on three construction projects to complete the widening of U.S. 68/KY 80 from Cadiz to Lake Barkley in Trigg County.
Meantime, the speed limit will be raised on most of the stretch of KY 80 already four lanes wide from Mayfield to Aurora in Graves, Calloway and Marshall counties.
"Modern, four-lane highways are indispensable for business, tourism and other commerce," Gov. Beshear said. "The widening of the last two-lane stretch of '68/80' will complete a modern new corridor across roughly the western third of Kentucky, from Mayfield to Bowling Green."
The two routes - U.S. 68 and KY 80 - merge at Aurora, in Marshall County, and run as a combined route from that point eastward to Bowling Green. For the most part, it is a four-lane highway. One glaring exception is the segment scheduled for bid letting on Nov. 20 - an 8-mile stretch from Lake Barkley to the western end of the Cadiz Bypass.
Going west from Aurora, the highway splits into two routes: U.S. 68 runs northwesterly to Paducah, while KY 80 dips to the south. KY 80 is four lanes wide from Aurora to Mayfield.
"Travelers and businesses increasingly rely on Global Positioning System technology to plan their trips, and those systems favor routes with higher speed limits," Gov. Beshear said. "Kentucky 80 is a well-built highway. A 65 mph speed limit will allow it to stand out on GPS. And now that the remaining pieces of the corridor are falling into place, the time is right."
Legislators from the region applauded the Governor's announcement.
"This project will have tremendous benefit for not only the people who live in West Kentucky but the millions of tourists who visit annually, particularly with Land Between The Lakes being the No. 1 tourist attraction in the Commonwealth," said Rep. Kenny Imes, of Murray. "Infrastructure improvements of this nature make our region a more attractive place in which to live, work and visit."
"This is great news both for Trigg County and the entire region," said Rep. John Tilley, of Hopkinsville, whose district includes a portion of Trigg County. "Once complete, it will undoubtedly help lure more tourists and economic development here, and it will make driving along the corridor even safer. I want to thank Gov. Beshear and the Transportation Cabinet for making this a priority."
"The widening of U.S. 68 and KY 80 will be huge for the Western part of our state," said. Sen. Stan Humphries, of Cadiz. "Developing easier access to this area means more business, more jobs, more tourism and an overall better economic environment for our citizens."
The widening contracts and increased speed limit are but the latest actions taken by Gov. Beshear to modernize transportation in the vital Jackson Purchase and Pennyrile regions of the Commonwealth. Other milestones:
Construction of new, four-lane bridges over Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley to replace a pair of ancient, two-lane spans - the Eggners Ferry and Henry Lawrence Memorial bridges - too narrow for modern traffic. A new Kentucky Lake bridge is nearing completion, while a new Lake Barkley bridge will be open to traffic by October 2017.
Emergency repair of the Eggners Ferry Bridge in time to save the 2012 summer tourism season after an errant cargo ship ripped away a 320-foot section. The bridge was repaired and reopened in just 121 days.
Creation of I-69 from the Ohio River at Henderson to the Tennessee border at Fulton. The corridor comprises three state parkways - the Breathitt/Pennyrile, Ford/Western Kentucky and Carroll/Purchase - that are being modernized to meet interstate standards.
Raising the speed limit to 65 mph on U.S. 68/KY 80 between I-24 at Cadiz and I-65 at Bowling Green.
The U.S. 68/KY 80 widening also is indicative of the Beshear administration's focus on making or completing strategic connections within Kentucky's transportation system. Prime examples:
The Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project, which will double cross-river capacity on I-65 in downtown Louisville and, in eastern Jefferson County, cross the river with a second new bridge to complete an expressway loop around the greater Louisville region.
Expansion and extension of the Mountain Parkway, to create a wider, safer connection between Eastern Kentucky and the rest of the Commonwealth. When completed, it will close the last remaining gap in a four-lane, 400-mile corridor from Paducah to Pikeville.
Completion and extension of the Pennyrile Parkway from Hopkinsville to I-24. It formed yet another four-lane, border-to-border corridor, from Henderson to the Tennessee line.