For that reason, Craig Morris, PADD Planning Coordinator, said plans to build two new $100 million bridges along U.S. 68-80 over Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake may be delayed.
“It’s hard for one county push for that kind of money,” Morris said, adding that, to be completed, the bridges require “a coalition that’s greater than Trigg County.”
Morris put the bridges’ $200 million price tag in perspective with a dramatic figure, noting that the state spent $170 million dollars on all state road projects in 2005.
Excluding the proposed bridge over Kentucky Lake, the six-year road plan calls for seven individual projects in Trigg County, totaling more than $149,350,000.
Even that amount, however, only includes the partial construction cost of the Lake Barkley bridge, construction of which is already slated to extend beyond 2012.
Berlin Moore, Trigg County Judge-Executive, said it’s not unusual for the state to commit to more projects than it can complete and agreed that many parties will need to coalesce to lobby, as it were, for the twin lake bridges.
“It’s been that way forever,” he said.
“We need a coalition of different groups,” he continued, suggesting a partnership of the barge companies that float beneath the bridges, the rock quarries who refuse to transport their loads over the narrow spans and those communities and counties whose trade is adversely affected by the bottlenecks in the highway caused by today’s bridges.
Moore, who said his own father wouldn’t drive across the narrow bridges, said he is concerned that two bridges recently slated for the Louisville area may supercede the twin lake bridges, which have waiting in the wings since 1994.
“They need to step up and fund the bridges,” he said. “They’re getting in terrible shape.” He same some repairs to the bridges have been delayed with the expectation they will soon be replaced. Morris said the state has ceased painting the bridges, which itself costs $3 million per bridge.
State officials confirmed that it’s “entirely possible” for the Louisville bridges to be built before the twin lake bridges.
What officials would not comment on, however, is how some projects sift to the top of the pile while others sink.
Keith Todd, an information officer with the Kentucky Highway Department, deferred that question to Tim Chote, whose job it is to make budget estimates for the various projects.
Chote, in turn, said a memo from the Transportation Cabinet barred him and even Todd from directly answering any questions about budgeting, referring them instead to the cabinet’s top information officer, Doug Hogan.
“It boils down to two things,” Hogan said, “safety and economics.” He said projects that will encourage job growth or that are meant to improve unsafe conditions get precedent.
For the rest of this story, please see this week's edition of The Cadiz Record.