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US Route 50 Coalition Discusses Four Lane Expansion

By Bruce Kropp, WJBD News

Elected officials admit a four lane U.S. 50 from Vincennes, Indiana to Lebanon will not happen quickly, but they are pleased some progress is being made to get the project started.   Supporters of the effort were in Salem Friday for a fund raising golf tournament.   It was the first major fund raiser since groups pushing for improvements in the eastern and western parts of the state merged.   The Mayor of Breese Charlie Hilmes has been spear heading the effort on the west end.  

"If we come together as a group, we'll be much more successful. If we don't work together, one side wont work without the other half." Hilmes told WJBD.

The Mayor of Clay City Trevor Bissey has led the effort on the east side of the state and says all you have to do is look at Mt. Vernon and Effingham to see the impact a four lane highway can half on economic development.  

"It speaks for itself that transportation is key to any kind of manufacturing." Bissey said.

The group's lobbyist, former State Agriculture Director Chuck Hardke, updated the project for members of the group.

"We'll have 5 million dollars on the east side to side phase 1 in that area. Hopefully by later this fall we'll have studies on the shelf and ready for a shovel-ready project." Hardke said.

State Senator Kyle McCarter just freed up nearly five-million dollars to begin planning for a Lebanon by-past.   

"It is possible. Our challenge to to keep people encouraged and to show them what this can do for our communities."

McCarter joked anything is possible if the state can find $600,000 to purchase three new doors for the Capitol.  State Representative John Cavaletto says he sees so much potential for the project.

"This is the thing thats going to save many of our small towns. You have to visualize big, not small. I'm saying Sandoval, with a 4 lane route 50 combining with US Route 51, could be the new Fairview Heights." Cavaletto said.

Mayor Hilmes feels the project can be completed in pieces over the coming years.  After the Lebanon by-pass and the four lane road from Olney to Lawrenceville, he feels there are a couple of other key pieces that should be completed early on.  They include a bypass of Salem that would take the truck traffic out of the downtown area.

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