Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Candance Brake spoke at Thursday night’s Fiscal Court meeting to reveal the top local priorities recently selected to be presented to state representatives in the upcoming General Assembly.
Of several priorities discussed at the Chamber’s community priorities forum, the ones that came out on top include widening Kentucky 54, completing Interstate 69 and upgrading Audubon Parkway to the I-169 spur, extending Interstate 165 to US-60 and the Natcher Bridge, building a new judicial center and establishing home rule as a legislative priority.
“Over the past decades in our community, we’ve heard from leaders in the state and federal government that Owensboro is hard to help out because we weren’t on the same page, and that we had many of us who would go on different occasions and ask for different things — many times, competing things, whether it be transportation projects or capital projects” Brake said.
As a response to that ongoing issue, the Chamber of Commerce teamed up with the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. (GOEDC) and local government leaders to develop a program that would get everyone on the same page, while also allowing everyone a chance to be heard. Thus, the community priorities forum was born, and Brake said it’s been a success ever since.
“We’ve come a long way,” she said. “We’ve still got a long way to go, we do, but a lot of good things have happened so far.”
Brake said the plan is to widen Kentucky 54 all the way to Jack Hinton Road in Philpot.
As for the I-69 project, there are a few issues that local leaders are working to resolve before getting started.
“One of the issues we have is that, currently, you cannot upgrade to an interstate spur unless it connects to an interstate,” said Director of Legislative Services David Smith. “Currently, I-69 ends at what used to be called the Henderson bypass, which is a mile from the Audubon Parkway. We can’t upgrade the Audubon Parkway to an I-69 spur unless they extend I-69 further up.”
Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly said working on the I-69 bridge is important for the communities of Daviess County and Henderson because it will boost economic development and transportation both ways. Construction on this project isn’t expected to begin until 2025.
As for extending I-165, Mattingly said things are moving much faster than he ever expected them to — giving kudos to local government leaders, Governor Matt Bevin and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for their hard work to make it happen.
A new judicial center has been named a capital priority, Brake said.
“I want everyone to know that new judicial center is based on no one other than the AOC (Administrative Office of the Courts),” Mattingly said. “We’ve asked the AOC for a needs assessment two years ago, and I don’t know that they’ve done anything. We sorely need a new, larger judicial center, and we need the additional parking because we have people who come here and drive around the building trying to find a space to park, and they just can’t.”