A long-awaited section of the Newtown Pike extension will open Friday.
Oliver Lewis Way from Versailles Road to South Broadway has been more than a decade in the making and creates a direct route from Interstate 75/64 to South Broadway. A final section — which has not yet been funded — will go from Scott Street to South Limestone.
Unless there is a last-minute delay, the section of Oliver Lewis Way that runs between South Broadway and Versailles Road will be open to the public after a ribbon cutting at 3:30 p.m. Friday, said Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for the city of Lexington.
The new road is expected to ease congestion in the city’s core and create a direct route from the interstate to the campus of the University of Kentucky. The project also includes the extension of De Roode Street, widening of South Broadway and the construction of a large box culvert and several retaining walls.
The Newtown Pike Extension project began more than 10 years ago. The first phase, which connected West Main Street with Versailles Road, opened in Sept. 2010 and cost $12 million. That stretch of road was named Oliver Lewis Way after a black jockey who won the first Kentucky Derby in 1875.
The latest expansion includes construction of a four-lane road from Versailles to South Broadway through the old Davis Bottom neighborhood, whose residents were displaced to make room for the new road. A new affordable housing development called Davis Park neighborhood has been built for those displaced residents.
“We’re opening an important new gateway from the interstates to the University of Kentucky campus and south Lexington,” said Lexington Mayor Jim Gray. “Oliver Lewis Way combines affordable housing, neighborhood preservation and improved traffic flow … all important goals and hard to accomplish together.”
The section to be opened Friday cost $38.2 million — that includes property acquisition, utility relocation and construction costs, said Natasha Lacy, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
The final section, called the Scott Street connector, will begin at the intersection of Oliver Lewis Way and Patterson Street, cross South Broadway and tie into Nicholasville Road in the vicinity of the intersection of Scott, Upper and Limestone streets, Lacy said.
“This project represents a gateway to our city — and to the University of Kentucky — from the interstates surrounding us,” said Eric Monday, UK executive vice president for finance and administration. “At UK, strengthening instruction and student support in our academic buildings and residence halls defines the ‘why’ behind our transformation. For Lexington, improved access and mobility to, from and around the city, represents the ‘why’ behind this project.”