A connector road that would link Jessamine County directly to Interstate 75 is one of many road projects vying for state and federal dollars in a tight economic climate.
Because of that, Nancy Stone, chairwoman of the Jessamine County Transportation Committee, acknowledged that there is a pecking order and the I-75 project might not be at the top of the priority list.
“Especially given the fact that there are these big projects that include a bridge, which ours does, that are higher in priority, and those, of course, are the Louisville project and the northern Kentucky and the one over in western Kentucky,” she said. “That puts us as the low man on the totem pole, so we’re going to be looking at innovative ways to try to do this project.”
Jessamine County has already received $16.5 million in government funds for the project to cover the cost of a feasibility study, which has been completed, and an environmental-impact study, which is still in the works, Stone said.
“They’re in the process of negotiating right now,” she said. “I would have thought (the environmental-impact study) would have been finished a year ago, so that gives you an idea of how slowly these things go.”
So, with governmental funding in question, the transportation committee is taking a cue from Kentucky Transportation Cabinet secretary Mike Hancock and considering private investors.
Stone said Hancock gave Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Highway District 7, located in Lexington, directions to complete a cost estimate for the project.
“He wants a more accurate cost of what the project will be; the state is going to have to have it anyway, if they build it,” Stone said. “But if we decide here in Jessamine County and with the cabinet and District 7 to try to find a private investor, which could be somebody from another country, if we try that, we’ll have to have that cost estimate.”
Jessamine County Judge-Executive Neal Cassity said given the current state of the economy, many states may start looking at private investors for road projects.
“Everybody we talked to seemed to think that private investors are going to be a popular thing because the (government) money doesn’t look like it’s going to be available for quite some time,” Cassity said. “Everybody is kind of thinking that we might have to take (private money), not only in our county and state, but in other states, too.”
If the committee elects to seek out a private investor for the connector, it would first have to advertise and receive bids from individuals.
Stone also said if a private investor is selected, the investor would have to adhere to the regulations set forth by the state when building the connector road.
“The state would have specific guidelines on how it should be built and where it should be built,” she said. “If anyone wants to bid on it, they would have to do so according to how the state wants it built.”
Stone said if the committee elects going with a private investor, that would mean the connector would be a toll road.
“They will be subject to the state guidelines on charging tolls,” she said.
But Stone said going with a private investor is just one option the committee is looking at, and members are also looking at other ways of funding the project.
“We will continue to look at all the options and work closely with the District 7 office and with (Hancock’s) office,” she said. “They all understand the need for this, and they’re all working closely with us.”
Once funding is in place, the connector road would be built in three phases: the first phase from U.S. 27 to Ky. 1981, phase two from Ky. 1981 to Tates Creek Road, and phase three from Tates Creek Road to I-75.