“Any mega project requires that you have some type of financial plan to pay for it,” he said.
Leslie said the state considers a mega project as anything with a price tag of $100 million or more.
Last week, the House unveiled its two-year road plan, which included $14 million for the I-75 connector project.
“(That money) establishes the next phase of the project,” Nunley said.
The first phase of the I-75 connector established a corridor in 2008.
“We are taking that corridor, and we’re going to evaluate different options through there,” Leslie said.
The connector will extend for the yet-to-be-built East Nicholasville Bypass and wind through rural Jessamine County. The widest portion of the corridor is a 2-mile section near Ky. 1981.
Leslie said many Jessamine Countians will be affected by the project and the transportation cabinet has plans to keep the public informed. Those plans include the establishment of a website, www.I-75connector.com, Facebook and Twitter at @I75connector. The website will be functioning by the end of the week, said Nancy Wiser with Wiser Strategies, a communications firm for the H.W. Lochner. Those sites will also allow for public comment on the project.
In addition to the website and social-media outlets, the transportation cabinet plans to host public workshops.
“We are going to have a pretty extensive public involvement to get people involved and to be open with this process and to come up with the best option,” Leslie said. “We will try to get more specific with the directly impacted community members — the folks who are going to be directly affected by the project in Jessamine and Madison counties.”
Leslie added that getting the public involved in the process early will hopefully eliminate potential hang-ups with the project.
“We want to get the public involved early so we understand their concerns, so we can address those concerns early,” Leslie said.
Nunley said pinning down a project completion date is tricky.
“Transportation projects can take a while to get done,” he said. “But we are establishing a pretty aggressive schedule. If the funding is there and we can pay for it, we’d like to be constructing in roughly seven years. It’s a realistic goal if we can just keep it going, and the team we currently have is prepared to do that.”
According to a timeline provided by the transportation cabinet, it could be more than 10 years before the road is completed and open to traffic.
Since 2008, the transportation cabinet has held several public workshops, and the message was clear — a connector road is needed.
Jessamine County Economic Development director Wayne Foster said industries are looking for interstate access and the connector road would be a huge asset for the area.
“Economic development is a matter of competition,” Foster said. “Those communities that are located on interstate highways all over the country are doing better than those that are not. It’s a positive to have interstate access.”
Foster said while I-75 isn’t too far from Jessamine County by traveling through Lexington, the number of stop lights and other traffic issues is something industries look at when determining whether or not to open a facility in the area.
“It’s not always a matter of distance from interstate highways, but the trucking companies and those who run distribution facilities are interested in time,” Foster said. “A good transportation system and good interstate access is always going to be one of the major determining factors.”
Leslie said it has not been determined yet whether the road will be a two- or four-lane connector.
Nunley also said an environmental impact study of the proposed corridor must be completed before work could begin.
A citizens advisory committee — made up of community leaders, local officials and transportation-cabinet members — for the design phase will have an organizational meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Jessamine County Chamber of Commerce office at 508 N. Main St. in Nicholasville. The meeting is open to the public.