The controversial East Brannon Road project that got mired in a dispute between Gov. Matt Bevin and a Democratic House member in last year’s legislative elections is ready to go, state Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, announced Friday.
“It’s a go,” Buford said. “All the problems associated with it have been taken care of, and I expect construction to begin when the weather warms up.”
The $11 million project is an extension of East Brannon Road in Jessamine County to Tates Creek Road near the Fayette County line. It had been approved by Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, just before he left office in December 2015.
The administration of Bevin, a Republican, delayed the project, saying the Beshear administration didn’t secure a necessary portion of land before the deadline to begin work last March. The state was contractually obligated to pay The Allen Co. $625,000 in damages because of the delay.
The next deadline to begin work is in May, but Buford said he doesn’t think that will be a problem.
“All the land purchases and rights of way have been secured,” and the state Transportation Cabinet might issue all the contracts for the project as early as Friday, Buford said.
Ryan Watts, a spokesman for the cabinet, issued a brief statement that said “the state will soon proceed with construction to complete the project.”
Buford said construction could have begun last year, “had it not been for the snafu of securing all the necessary land. The Bevin administration had no option but to delay the project.”
The project drew headlines across the state last summer when state Rep. Russ Meyer, D-Nicholasville, claimed that Bevin halted the project as retaliation after Meyer refused to switch political parties. Meyer released a voicemail from Bevin in December 2015 in which Bevin said he wanted Meyer to understand how Meyer and his district would be affected by his decisions.
Bevin strongly disputed Meyer’s allegations and said the road project was delayed because former Gov. Beshear rushed the project to bid, knowing that it couldn’t start on time because all the property had not been obtained. Beshear said that wasn’t true.
The Courier-Journal reported Friday that a special panel appointed last year by then-House Speaker Greg Stumbo to investigate Meyer’s accusation found no proof to substantiate any charges that Bevin halted the road project as retaliation.
Republicans refused to participate with the special panel, and it eventually stopped its work with the Republican takeover of the state House last November.
Meyer could not be immediately reached Friday for comment.
Buford said he “did not get Russ involved with trying to solve all the problems with East Brannon because I thought it best that he and the governor not work together on this.”
“I just wish I had gotten to Russ before Stumbo did,” he said.