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Highway 53 widening to start

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$10 million project may be complete by 2020

By Ashley Sutter

Speaking over the sound of traffic buzzing by, city, county and state officials joined together in front of Shelby County’s Kentucky Farm Bureau office Wednesday morning to make an announcement so many residents have long awaited.

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“Today is about affirming a commitment to a critical and very important project,” Secretary of Transportation Greg Thomas said.  “It’s time to move forward.”

Thomas, along with Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty, Shelby County Judge Executive Dan Ison, Simpsonville City Administrator David Eaton, State Sen. Paul Hornback and State Rep. Rob Rothenburger (R-Shelbyville), took up a shovel and ceremoniously moved the first piece of dirt along Highway 53, initiating a widening project that many have pushed for quite some time.

Travis Thompson with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said the project includes widening the road from two to four lanes with a raised median in the middle.   It will include eight-foot wide shoulders on each side.

The $10 million, federally funded widening will extend from US-60 to the intersection at Interstate 64

“On the west side of the road there is going to be a nice walking path, bicycle path that will extend all the way to from the end of the state access out at 64 all the way up to US-60,” Hornback said, explaining that they will start moving utilities next month.  Relocation of those utilities will take about a year and the construction phase will likely start around the spring of 2020 and run through two construction seasons.

“The commitment today is to move as fast as we can.  You are at least looking at 2020, maybe 2021,” Thomas said of a projected completion date.  “But if we can go faster, we’ll go faster.”

Hornback said things would likely get worse before they get better.

“We are going to build the two new lanes and then we’ll transfer the traffic over to those and then we’ll tear up and rebuild the old two lanes,” he said. “It’s going to take some time.  Good things don’t happen overnight. There are going to be some trying times between now and then.”

He said about 17,000 vehicles travel the road each day and the need to accommodate the growing community is long overdue, especially for residents in the area have significant wait times when entering and exiting their subdivisions.

To ease their traffic concerns, Hornback said each subdivision off of Ky. 53 would have their own traffic light and there will be an access road that will run parallel to the main road. 

Thompson said the project has been high on the state’s list.

“We have 12 districts. For this district, this was the top priority project,” he said.

Hardesty added: “We all know there is only so much money to go around and every district is competing for these funds,” he said, added his thanks to all those who pushed to get the road to the top of the priority list. 

“It’s been a long time coming,” Hornback said. “We’ve had good money for this project for well over 10 years. It should have been done several years ago.”

He added that he is grateful to see the project finally moving forward.

Rothenburger agreed and said in his 14 years as Judge Executive, the widening project was one everyone agreed was necessary.

“They knew there was safety issues on this roadway. They knew there were transportation efficiency issues on this roadway. They knew there were economic development opportunities on this roadway,” he said, noting when Ison stepped into the role behind him 18 months ago, the widening project was already on his radar.

Ison added he was eager to tackle it.

“Ten years is too long to be working on a project and not getting any results.  It is a valuable project. It will increase the service of this community,” he said. “It will help with the safety of this community, which is paramount.”

Ison added he is glad things are finally moving forward.

“This is a project that is going to happen,” he said. “We have stopped talking, we have turned the soil.”