It was almost like Christmas a week early.
While millions of dollars are being spent all around the state for new roads, connecting small communities in far western Kentucky and knocking down mountains in Pike County, Harlan Countians were told by Dennis Gardner, manager of the Corridor Safety Program within the Department of Transportation, a division of the Transportation Cabinet, that they should focus on short-range plans for U.S. 421.
“As far as two lanes and truck lanes, I don't think it's going to go that far,” he said. “As far as bad spots, bad curves, collision points ... that's the kind of spots that we'll look at for now. As far as rebuilding the whole road, I know that's not going to happen.”
Gardner emphasized that Wednesday's meeting was arranged to focus on areas that could benefit from more signage, markings, ditch work and reflector tape.
It's difficult for me to understand the need for transportation officials to call a meeting about guardrails and signs.
Don't they have classes somewhere along the way, before you can get a big job in Frankfort, instructing future transportation officials where to put reflective tape and guardrails?
There has to be a question on a test somewhere that asks what a road needs if there is a large dropoff from the highway to the bottom of the mountain.
The answer, for everyone who isn't an expert on transportation, is guardrails.
Transportation cabinet officials shouldn't waste anyone's time - theirs or ours - with future meetings on reflective tape and signs.
We're about a half-century behind on roads in Harlan County and falling further behind each day. While Pike County gets $400 million for a four-lane U.S. 421 to the West Virginia line, Harlan County gets more guardrails - or, more accurately, the hope of more guardrails.
We're still waiting on the governor to follow through on his promise to complete the final three miles of U.S. 421 to the Virginia line, which doesn't appear so promising now.
No one asked me, but my solution for making our roads safer is building new roads. There's only so much you can do in 2006 with roads that were built in 1956.
After decades of this type of treatment, our county and city officials and legislators should be beyond livid, demanding answers why there is enough money for roads everywhere except the place that needs them most.
I've almost given up waiting on that type of reaction from anyone actually elected to make Harlan County's future better. Silence is the only response we can expect, which makes it so much easier for our county to be ignored.