Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

July 30, 2013

Beshear, Adkins help break ground on Ky. 7 improvements

16 years after work began, Phase 4 is set to begin by the end of August

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

SANDY HOOK — According to state Rep. Rocky Adkins, who was born and raised in Elliott County, better roads and improved access were promises that politicians made to the people of the county for years, usually at election time.

But it wasn’t until 1997, he said, that those promises turned out to be something other than campaign rhetoric.

It was that year when the state Transportation Cabinet launched the initial phase of a major improvement of Ky. 7, one of the main corridors into Elliott County. That phase, which took three years to complete, involved widening and straightening a narrow, corkscrewing segment of the roadway from Ky. 557 to Ky. 32 at Newfoundland and replacing an aging steel-beam bridge over Laurel Gorge with a new concrete span.

On Monday, 16 years after improvements to Ky. 7 were began, Adkins, Gov. Steve Beshear and other dignitaries broke ground for the fourth phase of the reconstruction, which will run from Ky. 885 at the Green community to the Carter County line.

Phase 4 will cost about $36 million, including $10 million for utility line relocation and right-of-way acquisition, and will bring the state’s total investment in improving the stretch of Ky. 7 that runs from Sandy Hook to about $60 million.

“This is an investment of your tax dollars, and it’s a tremendous investment for the people of this community,” Adkins said, adding that the project had been one of his top priorities during his 26 years in the General Assembly.

Noting that poor access had always been a difficult hurdle to overcome in bringing new jobs to Elliott County, Adkins said he was hopeful the upgrading of Ky. 7 would prove to be the spark that “starts the engine of economic development and jobs for our people.”

Beshear said he believed it was critical for the state to find ways to pay for improvements such as the Ky. 7 project, even during lean economic times.

“When we get infrastructure improvements in place in our communities, good things follow. Economic development happens,” he said.

The second phase of the Ky. 7 reconstruction began in 2003, and involved the section of the road running through Newfoundland to near Ky. 885. It included another new bridge over the Little Sandy River and improved access to the Little Sandy Correctional Complex, which employs about 300 and has “stabilized the economy” of Elliott County, Adkins said.

The third phase, which finished in 2010, focused on the realignment of 1.49 miles of Ky. 7 from the Ky. 32 intersection downtown to near Ky. 557 with wider and straighter through lanes and additional turn lanes to increase vehicle capacity and safety.

Utility line relocation for phase four of the project is about to get underway, and actual road work should commence by the end of August, said Bart Bryant, chief district engineer with District 9 of the Kentucky Department of Highways. Greer Mining Inc. of London, won the contract for the work with a low bid of $26,546,077. The contract specifies 530 working days, giving contractors about three years to complete the project.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.