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December 26, 2017 1:45 PM, EST
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Helps Kick Off New Dixie Highway Project in Louisville
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, WLKY News Louisville via YouTube

Louisville, Ky., kicked off construction for the New Dixie Highway project Dec. 22 with an event featuring Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

The Dixie Highway, mapped by the National Highways Association in 1915, is a network of connected roads that stretches from Michigan to Florida. Louisville is leading a $50 million project to improve safety and mobility along a 14-mile portion of the route, which runs through downtown and sees 60,000 drivers a day, according to the city government’s website.

The project was awarded $16.9 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant funding in 2015.

“The U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER grant is providing nearly half of the funding for the New Dixie Highway Project to greatly improve the Louisville area transportation network,” Chao said at the kickoff event. “I have spent a lot of time driving Dixie Highway and am delighted to be part of this effort to improve the safety and efficiency of the city’s busiest traffic corridor.”

Chao’s husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, represents Kentucky.

The project will include roadway design improvements, such as raised medians and left-hand-only turn lanes, a new Intelligent Transportation System to coordinate traffic light timing and the area’s first Bus Rapid Transit route. The overall cost of the project also accounts for $14.5 million in pavement replacement and resurfacing along a 5-mile segment of the downtown corridor.

“When the Dixie Highway was first planned more than 100 years ago, it was a visionary project designed to link the Midwest to the South. Things have changed over the past 100 years. Louisville has grown. And so has the traffic,” Chao said. “The Dixie Highway corridor has become the city’s busiest transportation corridor, and we know what that means — traffic delays. The improvements will be an economic asset for the South End, Louisville, and to Kentucky.”

The project is part of Mayor Greg Fischer’s Move Louisville plan, a 20-year outline that dedicates $1.4 billion to fix and improve roadways, sidewalls and bike paths. The plan identifies 16 projects, four of which involve major transit corridors.

“The secretary of transportation looks over the entire United States of America, and it’s a lot to say grace over,” Fischer said at the kickoff event. “We also appreciate that she has a special place in her heart for her hometown of Louisville.”