U.S. 45/Lone Oak Road construction project explained


Anchor - Todd Faulkner
Photojournalist - Chad Darnall
Web Editor - Mason Stevenson

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, Ky. - Local 6 receives many requests to cover stories every day.  One the station receives on a regular basis concerns the construction project on U.S. Highway 45, also known as Lone Oak Road, near the I-24 Exit 7 ramps in McCracken County, Kentucky.  Questions range from why it's taking so long to how much taxpayer money is going into the project?

Now, we have answers.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet considers U.S. 45/Lone Oak Road one of the busiest areas in District 1.  Heavy traffic is a constant.  Some would say the construction is just as constant.

Local 6 filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the state for information about construction in that area over the past decade.

Here's what we found:

In 2007, a project totaling $566,000.  In 2010, one for $422,000.  In 2011, another one for more than $556,000.  Most recently, in 2012, a $1 million-plus contract.

That totals more than $2.6 million.

"I think kind of the misconception out there is that we have gone back and done some of the same things over that we've done the last couple of years. And the answer is no, we haven't," said Kyle Poat with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Poat says what motorists see is an effort to permanently fix a problem created back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, on section at a time.

"What we've done is, actually, is just a piecemeal process to repair the whole section," Poat said.

Years ago, the industry standard in dealing with high traffic areas like U.S. 45/Lone Oak Road was to use a combination of asphalt and "white topping."  However, the asphalt began to deteriorate over the years, because of intense summer heat.  That's when members of the department realized they had to address the issue with something more sustainable.

"The white topping wasn't behaving the way we needed it to," Poat said.  "The only solution for that high of an ADT [average daily traffic] area was to come in there and tear all that out, and the existing asphalt, and put in full depth concrete, 10 inch thick."

The process has taken longer than both he and drivers would have liked.

"This contract came along and fixed the worst sections. Then we started having more deteriorating and this one fixed those. Then we had more deteriorating, this one fixed those. This one finished everything out there."

Poat says concrete will withstand the elements and the test of time better than asphalt.

"High turning movements, high traffic counts, a lot of semi truck traffic which is obviously heavier loads, then typically concrete's going to behave better, because it's a more rigged product," Poat said.

As for spreading the construction work out over years at a time, Poat responded, "As a section would deteriorate and money became available we fixed it. As the next section deteriorated and became available we fixed it."

Some may argue the "piecemeal process" isn't ideal, but Poat says the department has the taxpayers' interests in mind.

"We're all tax payers. We understand what things look like sometimes. You know, we're always trying to do what's in the best interest of our money, and as well as prioritize things in critical needs."

Poat asks for the public's patience when the department is in the midst of major construction projects like the one on U.S. 45/Lone Oak Road.

"The best thing I can say is, hopefully the public bears with us some times and realizes that our goal is to cause the least impact to them as well as the safety of our workers and money."

Poat says the current work drivers are seeing is from the contract awarded in 2012.  A process called "diamond grinding" has been completed.  That makes the surface nice and smooth.  All that needs to happen in about the next week or so is to paint lines and turn signals on the surface.  Then, work in that area will be complete.