Work on Highway 44 needed; timing still unknown

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By Mallory Bilger

MOUNT WASHINGTON – The first phase of a major Highway 44 road project is progressing, but it’s impossible to tell if or when the plans will come to fruition.

A lack of funding could cause the proposed enhancements for Highway 44 between Kings Church Road and Bardstown Road to still be years away.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet conducted a public meeting Tuesday to gather additional  feedback on the plans, which include up to five lanes in front of Bullitt East High School and three lanes in lesser traveled areas.

The transportation cabinet and representatives of the Burgess and Niple engineering firm presented three alternatives for improving the heavily traveled section of road. The suggestions of local citizens gathered at a hearing in February 2008 were considered when the alternatives were designed.

All three alternatives include widening the existing highway and adding turning lanes at Bullitt East High School.

Residents packed the BEHS media center and asked questions, made suggestions and shared their concerns about the alternatives. 

Although the meeting marked the progress in the project’s preliminary design phase, for some, the news wasn’t all good.

“There is no funding (at this time) for Phase II,” said Brian Meade, branch manager for the KTC’s district five.

Meade said Phase I of the project could be complete in as early as two to three months, however, the final design phase couldn’t be finished until funds are allocated.

Unanswered questions of how costly the project would be or when funding would be available remained.

“I don’t think it will be forgotten . . .  but whether it’s a priority in Frankfort or not, I don’t know,” Meade said.

He said the legislature is still trying to approve a road plan, but, unfortunately, the grim economy has caused several cutbacks for projects such as Highway 44 improvements.

“I know (legislators) are trying to scale back the current road plan. No current road plan has been adopted.”

But the three alternatives created by Burgess and Niple gave residents an idea of what the road could be like if funding became available.

Alternatives one and two address roadway alignment. Alternative one includes the road being widened on its existing right-of-way, which would affect many property owners along the highway. Alternative two features the same widening improvements as alternative one, but realigns the highway to better accommodate existing property owners near Highway 44.

Alternative three includes widening the road and was described as a “spot improvement” plan that addresses the worst areas between Kings Church Road and Bardstown Road, including E. Sanders Lane and heavy traffic congestion caused by BEHS.

Resident Pam Burress, who lives on Hubbard Lane near the high school, said she didn’t mind which alternative was selected as long as it made turning out onto Highway 44 easier.

“If they put Hubbards Lane on a separate road, it would be perfect for us on that end of town,” she said.

Resident Ricky McMichael lives in a neighborhood accessed via Highway 44 near BEHS. He said he was impressed by the proposed five lanes, but still had questions. “My only concern is, are we doing enough?,” he said. “How much more we need to do, I don’t know.”

Resident Howard Wise, who lives on Highway 44, said he was concerned about his property. He said he was looking forward to the school congestion being alleviated, but predicted that his property would suffer because of the project.

“I think they need to take it into consideration before they scoop up everybody’s yard,” Wise said.

Meade was optimistic that the project would continue to receive attention, however, it would be up to the residents to contact their representatives and voice their opinions about the need for funding.

Clifford said many road projects around the state are in similar situations as the Highway 44 project.

“There’s always a possibility for funding. But all the projects are competing for the same dollars. The people need to go to their legislators and say, ‘We need the funding,’” she said.

Funding has already been allocated to finalize the preliminary design phase. Suggestions taken at the meeting will be considered and a single design will be created.

Community members can view the proposed alternatives and print out the suggestion form at http://www.transportation.ky.gov/D5/D5.asp. Suggestions made in writing will be accepted until March 13. They should be mailed to: Paul Davis, PE

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

District #5 Office

8310 Westport Road

Louisville, KY 40242