Rogers secures $45 million for Northern Bypass project

Mar. 19—In July of 2023, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers stood in front of a small crowd gathered at the Gatormade plant in the Valley Oak Commerce Complex off of Ky. 461 and said that he was working on securing a federal earmark to help transform travel through eastern Pulaski County.

On Tuesday, Rogers had another announcement: Mission accomplished.

The long-term Somerset congressman has secured a $45 million Community Project Funding earmark for Somerset's Northern Bypass as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024.

The money's stated purpose was to help begin work on the long-awaited project which will ultimately connect the recently reconfigured Ky. 80-Ky.461 interchange to the Cumberland Parkway and from there to Interstate 65, creating a quick passage between interstate highways to the east and west of Somerset. Travelers in this area headed to Interstate 75 typically reach it via Ky. 80 or Ky. 461.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024 was signed into law on March 9.

"This new bypass is the next step to creating a four-lane expressway through our region to generate more economic development and tourism opportunities, with safer and more accessible roads," said Rogers in a statement released Tuesday. "I have been working diligently with federal, state and local officials to map out important transportation projects in southern and eastern Kentucky. This earmark will pave the way for the Northern Bypass that we have envisioned for many years."

The Northern Bypass has been included in Kentucky Senate and House budget proposals for the state's six-year transportation plan. State Senator Rick Girdler of Somerset thanked Rogers for his efforts in securing funding critical in getting the bypass project completed.

"We've got $12 million in the (two-year plan) and then we've got $200 million in the six-year plan," said Girdler, the District 15 senator. "The Rogers earmark will reduce state dollars required ... In other words, he's putting $45 million (toward alleviating part of) that $200 million."

Added Girdler, "I'm currently having discussions and am advocating to maintain the $14.3 million in the House's road plan proposal to support the design, right-of-way, and utility work for this important project. This project would serve as a game-changer not only for our burgeoning region but the whole state because a rising tide will lift all ships."

Girdler also mentioned to the Commonwealth Journal that he's hopeful to secure an overpass for traffic to avoid the often-crossed railroad tracks in Science Hill within the next couple of years.

"I've been working on that since the day I started," he said. "... We'll start bidding out this summer, I think."

State Rep. Ken Upchurch, Kentucky House Chair of Budget Review on the Transportation Subcommittee and representative of a portion of southern Pulaski County in House District 52, said in a statement, "The Somerset Northern Bypass will improve how we move people and goods, creating a vital connection between the eastern and western parts of the commonwealth. ... The federal funding that Congressman Rogers secured is a perfect example of his continued commitment to our region."

Pulaski County Judge-Executive Marshall Todd also expressed thanks to Rogers in a statement.

"Strengthening the relationship between county government and our congressional office has been a top priority of this administration from the very beginning, and the Northern Bypass project is the next step in that local and federal partnership," said Todd. "Beyond Pulaski County, this funding will facilitate an east-west highway system across southern Kentucky. It will provide connections from I-65 to I-75 and economic growth opportunities from Paducah to Pulaski to Pikeville."

Including the consideration for Pulaski's Northern Bypass, Rogers secured 15 Community Project Funding earmarks in the Consolidated Appropriations Act at a total of nearly $86 million.

In last July's ceremonial opening of the roadwork done around the Ky. 80-461 interchange and road widening around Valley Oak, Rogers talked about the importance of having better connections between highways in this area.

"Southern Kentucky needs a four-lane expressway running from east to west," he said at that time. "As you begin to look at the map of Kentucky, we're not far from making that happen. ... To the east, our state legislators have reserved $1 million in the transportation plan ... to study expanding Highway 80 from London to Hazard, the only piece that remains two-lane ... the only two-lane parkway in your commonwealth, and that has to end."