$7.25M for Bypass included in state budget

A decades-old project to extend the bypass around Winchester may be moving forward in the next two years.

The state budget, as approved by the General Assembly earlier this week, includes $7.25 million in the next two fiscal years to extend the bypass from Irvine Road around to Boonesboro Road, according to the bill.

Clark County’s only other project in the plan was $4.73 million to resurface Interstate 64 in fiscal year 2020.

With funds in the budget, there is cause for muted celebration.

“Local officials got excited when we had something in the six-year road plan,” Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner said. “A former legislator told me it meant something (when the project is) in the two-year budget.”

“That is encouraging,” Clark County Judge-Executive Henry Branham said. “At least it’s moving forward.”

The allotted funds will not complete the project, though. Branham said the 2016 road plan requested $37.5 million for the bypass extension.

“It sounds like what they’re doing is finding rights-of-way and utility relocation,” Burtner said. “There’s a significant amount of utility relocation.”

The idea of extending the bypass around Winchester to connect Bypass Road and Veterans Memorial Parkway, originally known as the eastern bypass, has been around for decades.

“The project was really pushed hard and was a major endeavor of (former Winchester mayor) Gene Kincaid,” Burtner said. “The plan was to go all the way around and connect to Boonesboro Road.”

Only the portion was funded to go from Maple Street to Irvine Road, though, and that’s where the project has remained since.

When it is completed, it would open a large area of Clark County for potential development.

One the appeals, Branham said, is the Boonesboro Road end has infrastructure, including sewer service.

“That’s a big deal for development,” Branham sid. “It could be a big economic driver for that area.”

Burtner said it would also be a boon for school bus traffic from George Rogers Clark High School to eastern Clark County, without having to go through town.