Governor Steve Beshear on Wednesday returned to Morgan County to announce highway aid that will resolve a long-standing traffic problem in West Liberty and at the same time speed the community's reconstruction and recovery from a devastating tornado.
“An extraordinary disaster requires an extraordinary response,” Gov. Beshear said. “The citizens of West Liberty and Morgan County first had to deal with the monumental task of clearing away the debris left by the tornado. Now we can turn more of our attention to the rebuilding of the infrastructure of this community. That includes repairing and improving the main transportation artery through this community. We intend to get started quickly. We cannot wait until the legislature takes up a new Kentucky highway plan in 2014.”
The state assistance announced by Gov. Beshear is in two forms: initial funding for a $7.2 million project to widen the main traffic artery through West Liberty – Main Street intersecting with Prestonsburg Street – and immediate funding for repair of storm-damaged streets and roads.
Morgan County was approved for $416,000 from the Transportation Cabinet’s County Emergency Road Aid program. It is an unprecedented amount for the program. “But the tornado was an unprecedented disaster for Morgan County,” Gov. Beshear said.
The widening project involves a T-shaped area of downtown West Liberty in which Main Street and Prestonsburg Street intersect. Most of the project area is part of U.S. 460, though Main Street north of the intersection is KY 7. Ten thousand vehicles per day travel the route, including large freight trucks, which for many years have negotiated the tight turn of the intersection only with great difficulty.
“Widening Main Street and Prestonsburg Street will benefit travelers and residents of West Liberty in two ways,” Gov. Beshear said. “It will relieve a chronic traffic congestion point. At the same time, those who want to rebuild in the downtown will know the exact footprint.”
To kick-start the work, Gov. Beshear presented a ceremonial check for $400,000 to Morgan County Judge-Executive Tim Conley and West Liberty Mayor Jim Rupe. The funding, which will pay for Phase I design work, is from the Transportation Cabinet’s state road fund contingency account, so it is readily available and does not need legislative action. With later phases of the project – final design, right of way acquisition, utility relocation and construction – the cabinet estimates the cost will total approximately $7.2 million and will be funded through the normal process of the Highway Plan.
“With planned reconstruction in downtown West Liberty, now is the right time to address the widening of Main Street and Prestonsburg Street,” Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said.
“As the community continues its rebuilding effort after such devastating tornados, I’m very appreciative we have this funding to help West Liberty improve main roads for better traffic flow, making it safer and more accessible for folks who live here and the trucks traveling through the city,” said Sen. Robert Stivers, of Manchester.
“The road widening is a critical project for our community, and I’m committed to doing all I can to help provide funding through the budget. Today’s announcement is a great step forward and is definitely appreciated,” said Rep. John Will Stacy, of West Liberty. “I want to thank Gov. Beshear and his administration for all their work this year to help us get back on our feet. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.”
“Gov. Beshear and his leadership, as well as his entire team, have shown true compassion and understanding to the needs of our devastated area and it certainly has not gone unnoticed. It takes an extraordinary governor to respond in devastating times,” said Judge-Executive Conley. “This governor has given 110 percent to the quality of life for our people.”
“This announcement by Gov. Beshear just magnifies his commitment and concern for our city and county,” said Mayor Rupe. “The traffic flow through West Liberty has been a major concern and problem throughout the years. This project will simplify the rebuilding process for all parties concerned and allow traffic to flow smoothly through our city. Thanks again for stepping up to help our community.”