Kentucky’s U.S. 119 Safety Upgrades Will Be Costly

Sat April 10, 2010 - Midwest Edition
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PINEVILLE, Ky. (AP) A county official is touting smaller improvements to a dangerous stretch of a southeastern Kentucky highway after an estimate to upgrade it to four lanes came in at more than $800 million.

The 30 mi. (48 km) of U.S. 119 from Bell County to Harlan is considered one of Kentucky’s most dangerous roadways. Local officials have said the best safety solution would be to turn it into a four-lane highway, The Middlesboro Daily News reported.

But a recent state Transportation Cabinet estimate of nearly $811 million for the widening project makes it seem unlikely for now.

“While it is apparent that Highway 119 is a very dangerous road, there are areas of it that need to be addressed,” said Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock. “I think with a price tag of $811 million, it should be obvious to all of us that it is going to be tough to secure that kind of funding in this particular economic situation — with us being in a recession and with state government’s decline in revenues.”

Meanwhile, nearly $3 million has been allotted for short-term solutions in the corridor — for turning lanes, passing lanes and other safety fixes.

Brock insisted that the overall focus needs to be “on those areas that have been identified as the most dangerous.” He added that local government officials need to “aggressively seek funding to address the problems areas.”

Harlan County Chamber of Commerce President Dan Mosley said the study is a starting point for future improvements.

“This gives us something to work with to tell our legislators what we want to do next,” Mosley said. “The spot improvements are critical because they do tie into a four-lane road. It is important we get those under way now.”