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Highway 44...Unlikely to get total makeover

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At issue... Cost to acquire right-of-way makes such a project very difficult. Local officials state looking at alternative routes may be best option for county to seek.

By Thomas Barr

 MOUNT WASHINGTON - Those holding out hope that they would live long enough to see Highway 44 widened to five lanes may want to put their dreams elsewhere.

While the improvements along Highway 44 from Shepherdsville to Mount Washington have long been on the state's six-year road plan, a pair of local legislators have basically thrown in the towel.

The reason - money.

State Sen. Paul Hornback and state Rep. Linda Belcher were present to address Bullitt Fiscal Court on the record-setting funds appropriated during the recent General Assembly for local projects.

But both agreed that it is time to look at alternative routes rather than a total reconstruction of Highway 44.

Despite the fact that redistricting next year will more than likely remove Hornback from representing Bullitt County, it didn't stop him from supporting the record-setting projects.

"I saw a lot of need in Bullitt County," Hornback said when he campaigned for the senate seat in Bullitt, Spencer and Shelby two years ago. "If you help one part of the state, you help the others."

The state House prepares the road plan and then the senate gives final approval. Differences between Gov. Steve Beshear and Sen. David Williams led to a week-long special session to get the road plan approved.

At the last minute, Hornback said he got calls that a $4 million project to improve Highway 245 had been removed from the road plan. Thanks to the assistance of Williams, Hornback said that project was returned to the plan as the packages were being printed for final approval.

"There's a lot of good things in this road plan," said Hornback.

While Bullitt is slated to receive over $62 million in work over the next two fiscal years, Hornback said his work was not all about taking care of his home county.

In fact, his home county of Shelby saw the fourth largest amount in cuts as $32 million in projects were cut.

"I try to do what's right for the whole district," said Hornback, who will likely lose all of Bullitt County next year if legislators can create new districts which meet Constitutional muster.

Belcher agreed with Hornback that it was a concerted team effort which resulted in receiving the record amount in road projects. Both praised the other for working well together even though they are of different political affiliations.

Belcher said she felt very good about the many projects in the plan.

Besides the money for the Highway 245 project, Belcher said there remain funds to make three intersection improvements on Highway 44. Turn lanes and lights are planned at Bells Mill Road, Bogard Lane and Armstrong Lane.

Highway 480 will be widened from Cedar Grove Elementary to Valley View Drive. This will help to straighten a bad curve and also provide better traffic flow into the back portion of the Cedar Grove Business Park.

Highway 61 should be completed from the John Harper Highway to Highway 44 over the course of the next two years.

But maybe more important for future transportation issues is a pair of alternate route studies.

Both legislators said there is no money in the next two years for construction, right-of-way purchase or utility relocation. However, there is money to begin a study.

One would provide a new route in Mount Washington from Greenbriar Road to Bardstown Road.

The other would be to connect Highway 44 with Highway 480, which would include the construction of a bridge of Salt River.

Hornback said the $90 million project to acquire just the right-of-ways along Highway 44 makes that impossible.

"I don't think it will ever get done," said Hornback. " I don't think it's the proper place to use the money. But I understand the problems."

Mark Lord, representing U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, said the Congressman will continue to fight for road funding for the county and the rest of his district.

He encouraged the county to use long-range planning to deal with transportation issues.

Belcher said many of her ideas on projects needed in the county came from the GoBullitt.com study conducted for KIPDA. Part of that study included looking for alternative routes to help get traffic off Highway 44 and to provide other routes in case the major east-west road is blocked.

Hornback said the $3 million for the study phase would look for the best possible location on the bridge over Salt River. There is currently no location proposed for the connector road and bridge.

Gary Board, who lives in the Valley View area, was concerned about the widening of Cedar Grove Road and the possibility of the bridge. Residents in that community are currently facing the possibility of changes to the Heritage Hill golf community.

Hornback said that Cedar Grove Road carries a lot of traffic and Best Buy needs a better access point at the eastern edge of the business park.

"We have to be planning for the future," said Hornback.

Dan Thibodeaux thought improvements on Highway 480 should continue to Ridge Road due to the high number of serious accidents.

Both Hornback and Belcher commented on the need for planning along major roadways. One of the biggest issues on Highway 44 would be the cost of acquiring right of ways because so many structures are built near the edge of the roadway.

Over the course of the past 10 years, the Bullitt County Joint Planning Commission has asked rezoning applicants along major roads to dedicate a 50-foot strip to government agencies in case widening is done in the future.