Millions in stimulus funds to go to downtown Lexington projects

bfortune@herald-leader.comMarch 27, 2009 

A $23 million pot of federal stimulus funds largely aimed at Lexington downtown projects was announced Thursday by the city.

Money will be divided among four major projects:

■ $12 million to construct Newtown Pike Extension between Main Street and Versailles Road, including a bridge over Town Branch, 2,500 feet of sidewalks, bike lanes and street lights.

■ $5.4 million for LexTran buses, bus shelters, benches and a new radio system for buses on the street.

■ $4.7 million to complete the first two phases, or 7 miles, of a bike and pedestrian trail from Kentucky Horse Park to the Northside YMCA on Loudon Avenue. The Legacy Trail ultimately will link downtown Lexington to the horse park.

■ $1.1 million "street-scape project" to build new sidewalks and rain gardens along Main Street between Broadway and Elm Tree Lane.

An additional $1 million will go to Jessamine County for two highway projects and downtown renovation in Nicholasville, plus a storm drainage system for Wilmore.

The total of $24 million will be channeled through the Lexington Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which was notified three weeks ago about the money, said Susan Straub, city spokeswoman.

The planning group voted Wednesday on the allocations.

These projects were selected to receive stimulus funds, Straub said, because "they've had public involvement and input, they're ready to go."

Mayor Jim Newberry called the projects "a boost for downtown, particularly the streetscape project. New streetscape will, overall, change the way people look and think about downtown."

Councilman Jay McChord said the Legacy Trail and new streetscape respond to demands from the area's two largest employers, Toyota and Lexmark, who have said Lexington was at a disadvantage in recruiting young professionals because it had not invested public money in making downtown improvements.

"With these projects, we're saying 'OK, let's put our money where our mouth is,'" McChord said. "Our biggest employers said we need to do this. We're doing it."

From Wednesday, there is a 15-day public input and review period. Individuals wanting to register their opinions should call the city at 425-2255.

Reach Beverly Fortune at (859) 231-3251 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3251.

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