Stewart said that around 2005, city officials began discussing a project that would move semi truck traffic away from the downtown area. In addition to alleviating congestion, the city is hoping make conditions less risky for the older downtown businesses.
Stewart said the planning process began with the design, which allowed the city to begin acquiring right-of-ways and utility easements. After the design work was complete, the city acquired 36 parcels for the right-of-way, along with the easements that went with them, she said.
The city is scheduled to open bids for utility relocation at 2 p.m. today.
“We’ve completed that part, so now we’re at the utility relocation stage,” Stewart said. “Once we receive the bids, we have to send the one we choose to the state for their approval. Then at that point, we can move forward. After utilities are relocated, we’re good to start on the road once we get the funding.”
The city has been working with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) over the last few years to secure funding for each phase of the project, with the goal of building a road to bypass 12th Street by connecting U.S. 641 with Murray’s east side. The plan is for the two-lane business loop to extend east from Glendale Road and South Fourth Street intersection, cross the railroad tracks and continue north to the intersection of Industrial Road and KY 94 East. Sycamore Street Extended will cross the railroad tracks and connect into the business loop when the roadway is being constructed, said Marisa Stewart, projects manager for the City of Murray.
“(Large trucks) aren’t good for the buildings, with all the shaking that semis create,” Stewart said. “And, of course, we had the one collapse (at the corner of Fourth and Main streets in 2014).”
Stewart said KYTC awarded the city $937,000 for the design and environmental services and $1.11 million for right-of-way acquisition. However, she said the city didn’t spend the entire amount allocated for right-of-way acquisition, so the leftover amount can be added to the $1.69 million the city received for utility relocation. Strand Associates was hired for the design of the route, and Bacon Farmer Workman Engineering & Testing helped with utility design, Stewart said.
City Administrator Jim Osborne said that while the project has experienced some lulls since its early stages, Mayor Bob Rogers wanted to make it a priority after he was elected in 2018.
“The mayor met with the cabinet and told them that was a priority because money had already been spent on the right-of-way acquisition and things like that, and he wanted to see the project completed,” Osborne said. “So he’s really put a focus on this project since he’s been in office, and of course, Marisa’s done a great job pushing it forward.” With the supply chain problems the construction industry has been facing in recent months and prices of materials being high right now, Stewart said it would be difficult to nail down a firm timeline for utility relocation for the time being. Once the work begins, though, she estimated that portion of the project would take about nine months. After utility relocation has been completed, the city can request construction funds from KYTC in the next biennial budget cycle. The Kentucky General Assembly passes a budget in even-numbered years, so after this year’s budget, legislators will vote on the next one in 2024.
“Once the utilities are relocated, the state likes to see that done because then they know it’s a project that’s ready to go (for the next phase),” Stewart said. “Then they’re more likely to give us the funding for the construction at that point. Once that starts, I’d say it would probably be a year-and-a-half to two years for them to complete construction.”