Putting people before politics was the way the U.S. 27 expansion was completed, according to Gov. Steve Beshear during Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony in Lancaster.
The $41 million project, which broke ground in 2008, faced several difficulties, from environmental issues to a negative economy, according to state Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, who was present and spoke.
After the presentation, he explained that during the building process, a fault line was discovered, causing a small earthquake.
“Every time we turned around, we were finding reasons to back up and be careful. It was probably one of the most lengthy times for its distance,” he said.
At one point, Buford explained, the project was slowed with the hopes of getting stimulus money for its construction. He believed it was worth the wait.
“It’s a pleasure to drive the road, whereas before, it was dangerous, and it was time consuming,” Buford said.
The road leading to Garrard County, which is staunchly Republican, was still an important issue to the governor, Buford said. He credits Beshear with pushing through the party lines to help the state.
Garrard County Judge-executive John Wilson, who was also present and spoke at the event, explained afterward the necessity of the new road.
“We had a number of fatalities. The number of incidents has dropped dramatically. That’s something we don’t want to lose in all of this, that people’s lives have undoubtedly been saved,” he said, explaining that, at one time, there was about a wreck a week on the previous stretch of U.S. 27.
The economic impact for the community was also expressed by Wilson, who emphasized that Garrard was previously the only county in the 6th district that did not have a four-lane road.
“It strangled our county from any type of real economic development that involves trucking. That’s most of our economy in Kentucky ... This enables our county to move forward,” Wilson said. During the presentation he shared the previous issues the city had faced with attracting business.
“We had a factory looking to come here and they decided not to come,” he said. “We got them to put it on paper that the reason they would not come here was because our roads were not suitable for their trucks.”
Wilson added that the project was long overdue.
There is a plan in the works for construction on Ky. 52, beginning in Paint Lick, the contract for which Wilson anticipated to be under review in March.
“That will eliminate the last obstruction between Lancaster and I-75,” he said.
There were more than elected officials present at Monday’s event. Held in the First National Bank community room, attendees included individuals who had helped with all aspects of the project. The event included community members, too.
Billy Pendleton, who said with a smile that he was probably the only other Democrat in the room, besides Beshear, explained that he was happy to attend.
“I try to make a point of going to meet any dignitary, whether they are Republican or Democrat,” he said.
Pendleton lives on the portion of U.S. 27 that goes from Lancaster to Lincoln County that has yet to be finished, but he said he believes it will be great. According to Wilson, that project is currently moving forward in the background, but construction will probably not be seen for five to six more years.
The project involved the reconstruction and widening of U.S. 27 from Camp Nelson in Jessamine County to just south of Ky. 34. On average, the highway carries 18,500 vehicles per day, and traffic is projected to reach 37,000 vehicles per day by 2028.