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Chief Engineer Tracks I-69 Upgrades Along Parkways

DSC 0383WESTERN KENTUCKY (7/4/14) ― Good roads, highways and bridges are critical to the economy and is one of the most important services provided by government.

With the new I-69 slicing across his district, Kevin McClearn, P.E., Chief District Engineer for KYDOT District 2, has been a very busy fellow.

Multiple projects are proceeding simultaneously. The largest is upgrade is the interchange between the Pennyrile Parkway and Western Kentucky Parkway.  

I-69 follows the foot print of the two parkways but the transition from one to the other must be made without using ramps.  That means, motorists traveling north and south on I-69 will transition via long, sweeping turns with 70 mph speed capacity.

“This whole conglomeration only has two bridges and six ramps will stay the same,” said McClearn.  (Photo)

McClearn said that the old interchange contains eight ramps.  Only two of the ramps will be significantly changed.  The project is only the second in District 2 using “Design Build”, in which the contractor actually begins construction prior to design being completed.

“The advantages are that you get to construction much quicker,” McClearn explained.  “It takes special circumstances for Design Build to be effective.”

It is a big project ($29 million) that McClearn expects to be completed this time next year.

Considered one of the biggest traffic headaches in Hopkins County, is the Mortons Gap interchange that McClearn said could take over a year to complete with bids for construction expected to be let in January.

“That interchange with be a standard diamond” he said.

A Webster County exchange will be overhauled in the near future.

“The Sebree exchange was let last Friday and getting under construction in 4 to 5 weeks,” said McClearn.  

The exchange was originally designed for a toll booth and the ramps are inadequate by interstate standards.  The exchange has been reworked and repaired several times due to unstable ground.  The bridge will stay where it is and the upgrades will involve significant earthwork, said McClearn.

Interchange work in Henderson will be completed later this year.  In addition to the specific projects, other construction upgrades to the Pennyrile from the WK to Henderson have been let.  This work includes upgrading tapers (lengthening ramps on and off), bridge clearances and guardrails.

McClearn said that the section of highway will earn its “shields” next year and officially be I-69. When a parkway gets the shield, it then qualifies for federal interstate funding.

While all this is going on, McClearn oversees the rest of the second district (the largest in Kentucky) with the district’s 2,000 bridges ― the most of any district in Kentucky.  

“By federal law, each bridge must be inspected at least once every two years.  When we identify a bridge with problems, we inspect it every year.  Bridges that are showing deterioration may have their weight limits reduced or repaired or replaced,” said McClearn.

Ron Sanders
SurfKY News

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