The idea of a limited access bypass was first introduced to Mason County citizens in September 1999.
The project was one of the last accomplishments under the tenure of the late State Rep. Pete Worthington and stirred opposition among landowners affected by the proposal.
Nearly 12 years later, the footprint of the bypass is visible and construction is expected to be complete in late summer, early fall 2012, a project 13 years in the making.
The bypass will extend just over 4 miles from Kentucky 9, the AA Highway, at the Clyde T. Barbour Parkway to U.S. 68, just south of Washington. The price tag is $21.5 million and more than 1.2 million cubic yards of earth will be moved for roadway excavation, then used to fill in dips and valleys of what was once farmland. The plan calls for three bridges, one with interstate-type access ramps.
On Wednesday, officials with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 9 Office and members of The Ledger Independent newsroom traveled the length of the road bed.
Allen Blair, public information officer and Mark Rath, supervisor II for Mason County, led the tour. Once the bypass is complete, it will fall under the maintenance of Rath's garage.
Most visible to passing motorists is construction on the AA Highway, Clark's Run Road, U.S. 62 and U.S. 68; in between, heavy equipment moves dirt and rock after explosives have been used to make a cut in the landscape.
Blair said the focus of the bypass is to separate "thru traffic versus traffic going downtown," reduce congestion along the business corridor of the AA Highway and to "increase capacity to handle traffic in and around Maysville." Blair also noted the rerouting of tractor-trailer traffic away from the AA Highway and U.S. 68 intersection is just one benefit of the limited access bypass, not the primary focus. Blair pointed out with the bypass feeding directly off the parkway to the William Harsha Bridge, motorists traveling south toward Lexington will be able to avoid the congestion at the intersection, referred to as one of the busiest in the 9th District.
"This is the first new road in the area in several years," Blair said.
Once completed, the bypass will be a two-lane highway, with wide shoulders; it will expand to a four-lane roadway at the AA Highway, to accommodate turning lanes.
But construction of a bypass doesn't come without change for residents living near the construction sites.
Slack Pike, which runs from Clark's Run Road to the AA Highway, will be rerouted to run parallel with the bypass, exiting onto Clark's Run Road at the overpass bridge. The southeastern portion will become a dead end because the bypass cuts the road in half.
On Clark's Run Road, motorists have been contending with construction of the overpass beam bridge, which should be completed in another month, depending on the weather. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Inspector Kevin Ishmael said the two-lane bridge is 296 feet and 3 inches long and 43 feet wide. Recent work has included the installation of galvanized steel decking forms, in preparation of pouring concrete, which will be reinforced with rebar.
Ishmael said Clark's Run Road will be repaired after construction is complete.
On U.S. 62, a diversion area route is being constructed to reroute traffic while a bridge is built. The temporary diversion route is to the north of U.S. 62; the bridge will be positioned just to the south of the existing roadway. The placement of the bridge will eliminate a curve in the roadway, but access to homes will not be affected by the straightening of the road, Blair said.
The temporary route should be completed in two weeks.
Blair explained engineers look for the most economical and efficient ways to build roadways and in the U.S. 62 area, it was determined it would be best to have the bypass go under U.S. 62, rather than build a bridge over the roadway.
Blasting has taken place in the area, resulting in a large rock pit on the south side of U.S. 62 that will be cleared by heavy equipment. Homeowners were contacted by the contractor handling the blasting, said Blair, and surveys were done of structures, utility lines and other objects before blasting occurred so that once completed, a comparison could be made to determine if any home or other object was damaged.
Work in the area of the AA Highway has involved grading the landscape for the access ramps and construction of the bridge that will span the highway. The bridge will measure 105 feet wide by 213 feet in length.
Blair said KTC officials will make sure traffic isn't closed down during construction of the AA overpass bridge, which will cause lane closures, and motorists should be alert for warning signs.
On the southern end of the project on U.S. 68, Blair and Rath didn't know if a red light will be erected where the bypass feeds into the highway. Turning lanes from U.S. 68 onto the bypass are planned.
Rath said while some residents may not understand the need for the bypass, it's important "to look at the big picture" and transportation needs for the future.
To soften the gash in the landscape, seeding of the embankments has already begun; in areas of steep slopes, erosion control blankets are used to keep the dirt intact after seeding.
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