Horses

Dirt pile alongside Oliver Lewis Way to be moved before WEG

Officials held a ceremony Wednesday to officially open Oliver Lewis Way, which connects West Main Street and Versailles Road. It's unlikely all the grading work will be finished before WEG.
Officials held a ceremony Wednesday to officially open Oliver Lewis Way, which connects West Main Street and Versailles Road. It's unlikely all the grading work will be finished before WEG.

An enormous mound of dirt and rock alongside the newly opened Oliver Lewis Way at West Main Street will be moved before the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games begin Sept. 25, officials said Wednesday.

The dirt pile is on property owned by the R. J. Corman Railroad Group, which plans to use the dirt to level its property at the intersection, said Andrew Grunwald, a senior municipal engineer for the city.

Gov. Steve Beshear and other officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday morning for the road that connects West Main Street and Versailles Road, which has been open to traffic since Sept. 1 even though construction work continues.

All sidewalks with handicap ramps will be completed in the next couple of weeks, but it's unlikely that all seeding and grading work will be done before WEG, Grunwald said.

"Everything will be cleaned up, hosed down, the street sweeped, but you might not have a nice stand of grass," he said.

A new bridge, which spans a portion of a rail yard and Town Branch, is designed to include public art in the future. The flat surface on top of each concrete abutment is wired so art placed there in the future can be illuminated, Grunwald said.

Six areas under the bridge are designated for murals, but those won't be painted until final grading is finished. Grunwald said he expected there would be a competition to select artists for the murals.

Other finishing touches that will have to wait until after WEG include burying utility lines, Beshear said. Following public outcry last year protesting overhead power lines, the governor announced that the state would foot the bill for buying the lines with the bulk of money coming from the state Transportation Cabinet's contingency fund.

The new entry to downtown will be "more beautiful" when the lines go underground, Beshear said Wednesday.

Wednesday's opening marks completion of the first leg of the Newtown Pike Extension project, which ultimately will connect to South Limestone. The completed portion of the road was originally planned as the last leg, but it was pushed up because of WEG and the infusion of $11 million in federal stimulus money.

The city contributed $1 million to the road, plus there was $19 million in federal highway funds used. Work started in August, 2009.

The bridge on Oliver Lewis Way makes both symbolic and real connections, Beshear said. Lewis rode Aristides to victory in the first Kentucky Derby, "a race and a sport synonymous with the Blue Grass state on an international level."

Lewis also was African-American. "So the honor we pay him today is a tribute to the racial bridges that we must continue to build for Kentucky to be successful," the governor said.

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