Response to Courier Journal’s I-66 Article 2/26/2006

thebigmapThanks to Jim Bruggers, award winning environmental reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal for his FRONT PAGE piece on I-66 2/26/06. In the same paper, there was an article on selling the DBNF and the BIOTERRISM LAB right here in Somerset-OH BOY! VOTERS WAKE UP! Small wonder the League of Conservation Voters rates ALL Kentucky legislators (except ONLY Ben Chandler who has a very  admirable 98%) at ZERO! Until we get some more conservation candidates I will be sure to vote for “NONE OF THE ABOVE”

Thank you Jim Bruggers for your report on I-66. I think it was a fair and balanced assessment. I would like to state my strong opposition to the proposed I-66 in KY. Back in the day of government surpluses, there was some talk by the US Government about having an interstate run from Fresno, CA to Washington, D.C. A $1 million Congressional feasibility study determined that Interstate 66 was not needed; the current interstate traffic grid already handled traffic needs sufficiently and it was not economically feasible because the highway construction costs exceeded the travel benefits. But thanks to the local politicians, who may or may not have any special interest in seeing our tax dollars go to this road (I suspect the former), and who managed to sneak in Congressional approval for the KY segment; our tax dollars (millions so far just on feasibility studies) have been appropriated for I-66 from Paducah to Pikeville. Existing east-west interstates I-64 and I-40 already handle traffic needs sufficiently. These east west interstates are only about 3 hours apart. I-66 would be built in the middle of the two existing east-west interstates. Officials say that $2.2 billion is to be spent on Appalachian transportation needs over the next five years, but the proposed Route 66 is estimated to cost a huge $5 billion (or more) for the 420 mile stretch of road. Now I’m no great mathematician, but that averages out to be a WHOPPING $12 million dollars (or more) per mile! Just the 43 mile stretch from Somerset to London alone is estimated to average $22 million/mile. Our illustrious leaders say that this road is needed, that it would bring Appalachia to the “front porch” of the nation. They go on to predict great economic benefits, increasing employment and earnings to the region. It may attract some businesses, are there any assurances from our leaders? If a few more gas stations and fast food places are built, will that benefit the local economy or just take business away from existing ones? I remember the man who cried because his son had to work two shifts at the Kroger-he wants good paying jobs to come here. Well if I-66 is built maybe he could work a third shift at the McDonalds, because that’s all the business that it will attract – low paying minimum wage jobs. London is blessed to have attracted the baking and automotive industries. There are jobs for people who want to work. But with a 38% disability rate, and a high high school drop out rate, existing businesses have a hard time filling vacancies with qualified people. People currently traveling along other roads may take the new interstate, causing devastating losses to existing businesses along other roads and further contributing to unemployment and the blight and sprawl that is already so visible here. The money that is going to this new road is taking away from funds available for repairing/upgrading existing roads. Many people traveling along Route 80 & 75 and existing local roads agree with me that the state could better use some of that money to fix existing roads. These are “Killer Roads” with no shoulders or lines painted on them, some with culverts & ditches on both sides, not even wide enough for 2 cars to safely pass. These are the roads that locals travel every day, I-66 will not make these killer roads any safer, these roads will not be linked to I-66. In short, the money spent for this “Road to Nowhere” will not bring any rewards to us regular KY citizens. How will the “Poor Appalachia” communities described by the politicians benefit in any way? Consultants, land speculators and big contractors will make money, but I don’t believe it will benefit the average citizen. If the segment from Somerset to London is built through the Daniel Boone National Forest (our property, this land that belongs to all of us Americans), reports predict that it will cut the travel time from Somerset to London by about nine minutes (averaging 70 mph) and would be less than two miles shorter than the current Route 80. BUT, the report fails to mention that this limited access highway would only be accessible in certain locations, you will probably end up driving miles out of your way to get onto it. And you may well have to pay a toll. People NOT using the road may need to go around the highway, increasing their travel time. So exactly where are these savings? People who don’t own cars and people who do not drive highway speeds, like our senior citizens will certainly not benefit. What about the costs associated with the deforestation of the Daniel Boone National Forest? Or the risks involved in building atop the topography of this cave and karst abundant region? Who will pay for the probable contamination to our drinking water from the asphalt and runoff of pollutants? Who will pay for the sinkholes that inevitably will develop? Other losses which cannot be assigned a price tag are loss of the natural forest, endangered species, recreational areas, and degradation of the environment caused by the increase in noise and air pollution.
Another argument has been made that the money has been appropriated for this road and if it is not used for this purpose, it must be given back to the Federal Government. During these dark days in our nation’s history, I personally would rather see this extra money going to fighting the War on Terrorism, educating our children, taking care of our Senior Citizens and our Men and Women in the Military and Katrina victims than building a road. Just imagine what a few extra billion dollars of our tax money could do to help areas with much higher priorities than this Interstate. And besides WHERE IS THE MONEY? Its not there!!!! Do you want your children, children’s children etc. to pay for this? Another argument that has been made is WE WANT SHOPPING & RESTAURANTS! There are plenty of existing areas that could be developed along 80 and 192 in London. And you still have to drive to Richmond or Jellico if you want package goods. In this day of the internet, many more people are shopping online than ever, there is not such a need for traditional retailers. I call this area home because of its natural unspoiled beauty. That’s what brought me here to Kentucky from Pennsylvania. I love the Daniel Boone National Forest, Cane Creek WMA, Laurel Lake, Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park, Cumberland Falls and the other local recreational areas. I am quite happy to travel Route 80, 75 & 25 to get where I need to go between Somerset, London & Corbin (a route which I travel daily). I just don’t think tourists will be any more drawn to the State Parks & Resorts just because of this new road. They’ll be whizzing through here at 70 mph and might blink and miss the signs! Why not just increase tourism advertising dollars, it would be much less costly and more effective way to attract tourists to the region. If the traffic increases will happen in the next 25 years, as predicted, let’s improve existing KY roads! Most people are attracted to this area for the beautiful and scenic natural environment, NOT the sprawl and the new super-highway. In my opinion, “Industrial Development” ought to be renamed “Industrial Redevelopment” and attract existing and new businesses to the already developed vacant properties, rather than building new ones. Over 200 vacant industrial sites currently exist in Kentucky. All of them are looking for tenants. “If you build it they will come.” Well where are they? Once the forest is bulldozed and paved, it can’t be brought back. Likewise, the existing roads in this state are perfectly adequate for getting from one side of the state to the other. So I ask you, my neighbors, do you want further sprawl or do you want to use/improve what is already here? Its time to STOP THE INSANITY! Caring citizens must stand up to “City Hall” and to those who stand to profit from this multi-billion dollar blunder. I think Hal Rogers just wants to cut his travel time to Washington DC. Voice your opinion! Maybe you, like me, care deeply but aren’t able to attend any of the public meetings and never saw a petition. Please visit http://www.kick66.org for more information and to voice your opinion which will be shared with the officials involved. Visit our website at http://www.kick66.org Email us at kick66@hughes.net Mail your comments to: P.O. Box 1133, London, KY 40743. Or write a Letters to the Editors. Speak out against I-66! I urge you to make your voice be heard!

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Author: kick66

Alliance against the wasteful I-66 construction in Kentucky.

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