After a decade of delay, construction is underway on a much-anticipated connector road between Leestown and Georgetown roads.
The extension of Citation Boulevard in northwest Lexington, along with the widening of Leestown Road between New Circle Road and Masterson Station Park, are expected to be completed by December 2015.
The $38 million contract for the combined project was given in April to L-M Asphalt Partners of Lexington.
Since the beginning of June, construction crews have been clearing trees around Greendale Road, Buck Lane and Mercer Road to make way for Citation. On Lees town, work is underway to move utilities — gas, electric and water lines — so the road may be widened next summer to four lanes, plus a center turning lane, said Tony McGaha, a project engineer with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
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Drivers should expect minimal delays as utilities are relocated, McGaha said. Once construction begins to widen Leestown Road next year, one lane in each direction will remain open at all times, he said.
The construction comes after years of rapid residential growth in the northwestern quadrant of the city, which was mostly farmland 15 to 20 years ago. City officials said they hoped the long-awaited construction would bring more retail businesses to the underserved area.
"The population has exploded," said Urban County Councilwoman Shevawn Akers, who represents neighborhoods surrounding the construction zone.
Akers said the area desperately needed more restaurants and retail businesses.
"Everything is centered on the south end of Lexington," she said. "We shouldn't have to drive so far for a Meijer or a Target."
Citation will extend 2.45 miles west from Jaggie Fox Way to Leestown Road at Alexandria Drive.
The route will provide a safer alternative to the two-lane country roads that many residents travel daily, said Bob Nunley, manager of project development in the Transportation Cabinet's Lexington office.
"We need something like this at this end of town," said Pastor Brian Bolton of CenterPointe Christian Church on Greendale Road. "It is going to help alleviate a lot of traffic challenges."
Traffic along Leestown Road is often congested, especially during rush hours, said Emmanuel Smith.
Smith said the city had purchased parts of his property, which backs up to Lees town, and many neighboring properties to make room for the widening project.
While some are not happy with the construction, Smith said, it was needed. "It's a good move ... to keep up with the demand," he said. "It is going to help the value of the homes in the area overall."
The Citation and Lees town projects have been a long time coming.
The first phase of Citation, connecting Newtown Pike to Georgetown Road, was completed in the late 1990s.
Original plans called for Citation to extend east to Russell Cave Road, but that portion of the project was dropped, Nunley said.
Meanwhile, a lack of funding stopped the road from reaching Leestown.
Although it began as a federally funded project, the extension was converted to a state project in 2006, said Ryan Watts, spokesman for the state Transportation Cabinet. It wasn't until 2012 that the state allocated $26.9 million to the project.
Funding for the Leestown project came from a combination of state and federal money totaling $13.7 million, plus $1.5 million from Lexington's Metropolitan Planning Organization, Watts said.
In a separate project, plans call for widening New Circle Road to six lanes from Georgetown to Versailles roads and major makeovers for interchanges at Leestown and Versailles roads. That $80 million project is in the early stages, said Joshua Samples, a design project manager with the Transportation Cabinet's Lexington office. Construction could begin next year, he said.