The city of Lexington moved closer Tuesday to assuming control of the Jefferson Street bridge, which it plans to tear down to make room for an expanded Lexington Convention Center and a nearly 10-acre park.
The bridge spans what is now a parking lot next to Rupp Arena and the convention center. The expanded convention center would take up a portion of the parking lot, with the remainder becoming Town Branch Park. Traffic would be redirected to the Oliver Lewis Way bridge, which opened in 2010.
The Lexington Center Corp., which oversees the convention center and Rupp Arena, is trying to finish final cost estimates for the convention center expansion. Demolishing the bridge could be part of that estimate.
The Environmental Quality and Public Works Committee of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council voted Tuesday to approve exchanging several streets with the state, which controls the Jefferson Street bridge. The council is expected to fast-track the road transfers and could take a final vote later this month.
The council delayed voting on the transfer last month after several council members questioned why the state wanted control of some city-owned streets in exchange for giving Lexington the Jefferson Street bridge and other streets.
Meanwhile, members of the Main Street Baptist Church, which has buildings on each side of the Jefferson Street bridge on Main Street, have pressed the city to set aside some of the land the bridge sits on for additional parking. The church has used the Rupp Arena lot for parking for decades.
Brandi Peacher, project manager for Town Branch Park, said she will meet with church officials Sept. 25. Peacher said the city is working to redesign the Jefferson Street entrance to the park so it can accommodate additional parking for the church.
In addition to the Jefferson Street bridge, the city will assume control of the following sections of state roads:
▪ Manchester Street between Oliver Lewis Way and Jefferson Street.
▪ South Upper between Bolivar and South Limestone.
▪ Tates Creek between Cooper Drive and Euclid Avenue.
▪ Euclid/Avenue of Champions from Tates Creek to South Limestone.
▪ Forbes Road from Versailles Road to Main Street.
▪ West High and West Maxwell streets from Oliver Lewis Way to South Broadway.
▪ Parkers Mill Road between Versailles Road and Man o’ War Boulevard.
In exchange, the state will get portions of Citation Boulevard between Leestown Road and Newtown Pike; Virginia Avenue from South Limestone to South Broadway; and Cooper Drive between Tates Creek Road and South Limestone.
Doug Burton, director of engineering for Lexington, said the city had approached the state about taking over Jefferson Street, but the state suggested other road swaps.
“The state wanted to clean up their state routes,” Burton said during a committee meeting last month. “They are taking a fewer number (of streets) but more lane miles.”
The city will assume control of 15 miles of state-maintained roads, and the state will take responsibility for 19.6 miles of city-maintained roads.
Councilman Richard Moloney, who cast the only no vote, said he was against the exchange because the city’s budget is tight. “I don’t know if we can afford these roads,” Moloney said.