Seventeen years came down to 18 months and 2½ miles of roadway. But today that final stretch from Ky. 303 west to U.S. 45 South will open to traffic and essentially complete a four-lane connection of Mayfield and Interstate-69 to a roadway that stretches to Bowling Green.
The roadway, which has been blocked by barriers at the Ky. 80/Ky. 303 intersection, is scheduled to be opened at 9 a.m. It will run to the new intersection at U.S. 45 southwest of Mayfield and be a southern bypass for large trucks. That intersection will have a flashing red traffic signal that will also go into affect today as a four-way stop.
Dirt work for the final section began in May 2019 and the project was slated to be finished by this week, according to an August 2019 story in The Mayfield Messenger.
The Purchase area portion of Ky. 80 — from Aurora to Murray — actually began 18 years ago and was finished in 2004. A ceremonial groundbreaking for the Murray-to-Mayfield section was held a year later and then completed in 2009.
State Rep. Richard Heath was instrumental in getting the project bumped up from a planned construction timeline of 2023-24. He said it being the most direct route to the new Interstate-69 along Ky. 80 is another way to put Mayfield on the map.
“I was definitely in the right place at the right time,” Heath, R-Mayfield, said. “The intention was to push it down the road to 2023 or 2024, so I was able to convince (state road officials) them of the need and urgency and got it moved up so we can use it in 2020.”
Mayfield Mayor Kathy O’Nan said the impact of the new bypass will be a plus for the economy and also ease some hardships heavy traffic has left on city streets.
“Every department in the city government will benefit with the opening of the Highway 80 bypass at the 303 intersection. While heavy truck traffic is vital to our economy, this will remove a strain from city infrastructure which will lead a decrease in city tax dollars being spent on street repairs,” O’Nan said. “We are most thankful to the Kentucky Department of Transportation and are looking forward to the commerce this will also bring to Graves County.”
Mayfield/Graves County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Denise Thompson echoed the mayor’s sentiment.
“The completion of this final connector for Highway 80 will make a huge impact for local industry. Companies will now be able to bypass our city roads, which will help with congestion and wear and tear on the roads,” Thompson said. “Rep. Richard Heath made accelerating the completion of Highway 80 his top priority last session. His research and focused legislative efforts have paid off as a big win for our region.”
Heath also noted the significance of the opportunity of the new bypass for the agriculture community.
“When I look at all the grain trucks coming through Mayfield hauling corn and soybeans to the grain elevator, I can’t help but think this is the last fall harvest they’ll have to go through downtown Mayfield,” he added.
According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, approximately 7,200 vehicles travel through that U.S. 45 intersection in an average day. Traffic volume is expected to increase when the new Ky. 80 corridor is opened.
Jim Smith Contracting of Grand Rivers was the prime contractor on the $14.2 million Ky. 80 Mayfield South Bypass project.
The KYTC also announced Thursday that the initial round of construction on an R-Cut at the U.S. 45/Ky. 408 intersection north of Mayfield has been completed.
The contractor started work Oct. 19 with plans to complete as much work as possible before winter. Work zone restrictions have been removed. The contractor plans to return in the spring to complete the project with much of the focus being median work.
Meanwhile, the existing traffic signal will continue to control traffic flow at the intersection.
The installation of the R-Cut is designed to enhance safety at the intersection along U.S. 45 near the Kentucky State Police Post just north of Mayfield.
The R-Cut (Reduced Conflict U-Turn) restricts left turns then directs traffic to a dedicated turn lane with a modified U-turn. The feature allows drivers to divide the decision to navigate through the intersection into several smaller decisions. It also eliminates movements that create the most opportunities for serious crashes.
R-Cut installations have been shown to reduce crashes by up to 54%. A version can be seen at the intersection of Ky. 80 and Central Road.
The contract also includes the construction of an R-Cut at the U.S. 45/Ky. 1288 intersection south of Lone Oak in McCracken County. Due to the proximity of that intersection to Community Christian Academy, work at that location will wait until after school is out in the spring.
Jim Smith Contracting is also the prime contractor on this $1,943,618 Highway Safety Improvement Project. The target completion date for work at both intersections is Aug. 21, 2021.