GLASGOW – Maintenance and improvement projects for roadways maintained by the state can often take years to get accomplished, leaving residents sometimes wondering whether they're still going to happen.
Just last week in a Glasgow Common Council Infrastructure Committee meeting, Councilman Freddie Norris was among the latest to mention he frequently gets calls about streets that are not the city's responsibility.
As it happened, Joe Plunk, chief district engineer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's Bowling Green-based, 10-county District 3, had been invited to Monday's council meeting in relation to another matter, but he came prepared to make use of the visit with status updates on several long-pending projects, some of which are among those about which local officials are commonly questioned.
Plunk first reminded the audience that the state operates on a two-year budget, and transportation officials are not allowed to operate beyond what has been identified in the list of projects placed in that budget.
He said that the cabinet works with area development districts and other local officials to help prioritize upcoming projects, though, in anticipation of the next budget cycle, and that has been done at this point.
• Ky. 90 west, toward Cave City – Some paving has been done and a contractor has been hired to finish it in the section between Veterans Outer Loop and the Beaver Creek Bridge, near Beaver Trail.
“Hopefully, by Nov. 1, all of Happy Valley Road from Glasgow to Cave City will have new pavement, so that'll be good news. It certainly was in need of it,” Plunk said. “You may wonder what happened to the expansion of Highway 90. That project is still moving forward. We are in the design phase, but there is not funding right now to buy property or move utilities or construct. We're hoping that that will be included in the next budget cycle.”
That project would create longer passing lanes, among other things.
• Ky. 90 east, toward Metcalfe County – Paving from Kino Road to the Metcalfe County line is taking place. The third phase of widening that road, similar to what has been done from Glasgow to Kino, is awaiting the $13 million in funding estimated to be necessary.
“We're not sure when that will come,” Plunk said.
• The Water Street “tunnel”/arch structure underneath North Race Street – Deficiencies in the structure built around 1914 were identified that continued to worsen and necessitated closing Water Street there more than three years ago. Conceptual designs have been done with a few options, and he discussed some of the pros and cons of those.
The goal is to get through the design and environmental study phases in 2019 and start construction in 2020, working with utilities relocation as well, he said.
• West Main Street/Columbia Avenue – “Go back generations,” said Plunk, who has been District 3's chief engineer since 2016. “All of these streets were concrete streets. Concrete were in slabs, and slabs move. For whatever reason, generations ago, prior to any of us working with the cabinet, we decided to pave asphalt over concrete. … It turned out to be a bad decision.”
As the slabs shifted, it created problems with the asphalt paving.
“I hope you know, we're very responsive when it comes to potholes,” he said, adding he had noticed on his drive in from Bowling Green that some had been addressed.
“We try to keep the complaints to a minimum, but as far as the 'big fix' – OK, this roadway has been resurfaced approximately every 10 years, 1978, '89, 2000, 2010 and now here we are at 2019, well past the need for repaving. So what we could do is we can mill out an inch and replace an inch, but guess what, in three or four years we'll be right back where we started, and citizens rightfully so will say, 'Why didn't they do it right to begin with?' Or we could do something like we did on Columbia Avenue. In 2009, we removed all the asphalt and we went back to the original concrete pavement.”
Asphalt was used only to fill in cracks and holes.
“In my opinion, Columbia Avenue drives better than West Main,” Plunk said. “It doesn't look better. It looks worse, but it drives better. That's just my opinion.”
So, they could do something to West Main like was done on Columbia, or they could do something like what is being done on the Martha Layne Collins Bluegrass Parkway from Elizabethtown to Bardstown, where they've taken out all the asphalt and concrete, all the way down to the dirt, which he said is “very expensive,” and businesses along there would be impacted for a whole summer.
“We're not really sure what we're going to do at this point. I just want you to know we haven't forgotten about this roadway,” Plunk said. “Certainly, if you see a pothole, I want to know about it immediately, but a 'big fix' is going to take time.”
Three councilmen asked for updates on other specific items that have been discussed but have not progressed, and Councilman Brad Groce asked about the double “S” area on South Fork Road. Plunk said it had met the eligibility for some specific highway safety funding and the cabinet is working on ways to improve it without completely reconstructing the road, like adding shoulders, widening the curves and changing the cross-slope of the roadway.
“That is funded and it is in this budget,” Plunk said, adding he believed it would be done toward the beginning of the next construction season.
– A separate report with more information from Monday's council meeting is on Page A3.