Boone County road projects buzzing along despite Kentucky's Pause 50 program

Federal, county funding helps maintain progress
What pause? Road work moves on in Boone County
Posted at 5:00 AM, Feb 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-22 18:43:38-05

HEBRON, Ky. -- Kentucky's Pause 50 program, which halted all state-funded road projects, isn't having a big impact on Boone County.

Most projects -- both justification studies and actual construction -- will move forward with federal or county funds in 2017 and 2018.

New growth near the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport -- including a recent announcement by Amazon to use the airport as a worldwide cargo hub with nearly 2,700 jobs -- is pushing the county and state to look at current and future traffic issues.

An interchange justification study, paid for by the Boone County and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, will determine whether Graves Road at Interstate 275 is a good spot for new ramps onto the freeway to relieve traffic at Kentucky 237 and I-275.

Both the county and state kicked in $375,000 to pay for the study, expected to be complete by November, said Boone County Administrator Jeff Earlywine.

The study "will opine on whether a new interchange is necessary, and maybe give us some ideas as to what that will look like," Earlywine said. "Generally speaking, we have an extremely busy intersection at Kentucky 237. Potentially, if there is another exit before or after (Kentucky 237) could offer a solution to get to a destination."

Worldwide Boulevard, home to Hebron's industrial sites such as Amazon and Wayfair, connects Graves Road and Kentucky 237. Most traffic accesses I-275 at Kentucky 237, but trucks were taking Graves Road, a mostly residential street south of the freeway, to Worldwide Boulevard.

A project extending Veterans Way, a county road leading into Boone Woods Park near Burlington, is in the right-of-way acquisition phase, according to Earlywine. The extension will connect Veterans Way to Kentucky 237.

View looking west from Hebron's Graves Road overpass at Interstate 275. The overpass is being considered for an access point to I-275.

The county received about $1.6 million in federal grant money through OKI, and the county will provide any other needed funds, he said. Boone County Fiscal Court minutes show H.W. Lochner Inc. was awarded a bid of $32,800 for the project, which involves right of way on three parcels of land, as well as some businesses including the YMCA and Huntington Bank. Earlywine said they hope they let bids on the project this summer so the road can be complete in 2018.

Drivers will be most affected by construction on a 3-mile long section of Mt. Zion Road (Kentucky 536) in the early construction stage, with tree removal and excavating underway, according to Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokeswoman Nancy Wood.

The $26.1 million project is designed to improve traffic flow and increase safety in Union, Kentucky, Wood said.

The construction will run from the southbound ramps of I-75 to 1,500 feet west of U.S. Route 42, with an expected 2018 completion.

The complete Kentucky 536 project includes Kenton and Campbell counties, but Wood said there are no firm dates for right-of-way acquisition in Kenton County, and there is no final design for the piece in Campbell County.

Wood said the Boone and Campbell pieces are 9 miles long, with a total cost of $172.4 million.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is hopeful it will be able to let bids this year for two left turn lanes from Kentucky 237 onto Worldwide Boulevard, she said. Construction estimates are $2.5 million.

There's really only one project in Boone County on pause by the state, she said. That project is turns lanes on U.S. 25 at Mubea Inc.

That project is among the millions of dollars of projects for 2017 and 2018 that were put on "pause" by the state in June when the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet came up against a shortage of funds. It's unknown which state-funded projects will be refunded first, or when.