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Gov. Bevin says he will make sure widening I-71 ‘stays on target’

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By Amanda Manning

 Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said he would make sure widening Interstate 71 in Oldham County "stays on target."

 The Oldham Era asked Bevin about the interstate project at a meeting with community journalists yesterday at the Kentucky State Capital.

The widening of Interstate 71 remains a hot topic in Oldham County and many local officials want it to be moved up on the list of statewide road projects.

“There is a methodology in the road plans, both the two-year and the six-year road plans that is somewhat set in place,” Bevin said. 

“There is some latitude but for projects of that size, not a lot to change the timing,” he added.

Oldham County made the list 22 times for Kentucky’s two-year road plan in the SHIFT program. “It’s an acronym that was focusing specifically on how we can prioritize projects, not for political reasons, but based on what the return on investment is,” Bevin explained.

The widening project is split into three sections. Widening Interstate I-71 from four to six lanes between the Gene Snyder Freeway and Crestwood is number 11 on the list.

Number 16 on the list is widening the interstate from four to six lanes from Crestwood to Buckner, while number 19 on the list is the same, but from Buckner to La Grange. 

Number 19 on the list also includes a new ramp off Interstate 71. The new exit would be 20 and would connect the Louie Dampier Bridge and the interstate. 

The widening from Crestwood to Buckner is scheduled to begin construction in 2024.

Bevin said while he can’t move the projects up on the list, he will make sure they remain on schedule.

“I can't necessarily expedite that, but I can make sure that it stays on target,” Bevin said.

“We have actually sped certain things up. That’s one of them,” he added.

He also said he’s aware of the traffic on Interstate 71.

In 2017, there were 240 accidents on Interstate 71 in Oldham County. Four of those accidents resulted in four fatalities.

“Anybody who has been on I-71 anytime between 4 and 6 p.m. and 7 and 9 a.m., realize we need to widen these corridors,” Bevin said.  

In October 2017, Judge-Executive David Voegele met with the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to discuss moving Oldham County up on the list of statewide road projects.

“I was trying to make her as aware as possible of the traffic, congestion and safety issues we have here in Oldham County,” Voegele told the Era in 2017.

Senator Ernie Harris, who is the chair of the transportation committee, said at the Oldham County Political Forum last fall his priority for the county is widening the interstate.

Bevin also said he believes the areas surrounding Interstate 71 will be “built up” years from now. 

“The corridor between Louisville and Cincinnati is going to be a major, major route 50 years from now,” Bevin said.