More than 50 years after the Mountain Parkway opened, Gov. Steve Beshear and Eastern Kentucky leaders today marked the beginning of the Mountain Parkway Expansion – a 46-mile transformational construction project to improve mobility, safety and economic development in the Appalachian region.
“The long-promised and long-awaited expansion of the Mountain Parkway begins here and begins today,” Gov. Beshear said during a news conference in Salyersville. “From this point east and west, we will build a wider, safer corridor for better connectivity and expanded commerce.”
During the event, Gov. Beshear and other leaders unveiled signs being posted along the parkway in areas where work is underway. The first Mountain Parkway Expansion sign replaces one marking the current end of the thoroughfare at the intersection with U.S. 460 and Ky. 114.
Initial construction on the Mountain Parkway Expansion will begin in a matter of weeks just west of Salyersville – the widening of nearly six miles of the existing parkway from two to four lanes, the addition of a new interchange and the modernization of two existing interchanges.
The new Gifford Road interchange will provide access to the planned Magoffin County Industrial Park – a project expected to help bring more jobs and investments to the area. Redesign and reconstruction of the Exit 72 and 75 ramps will improve safety and accessibility for residents and visitors.
The half-century-old parkway, which starts at Interstate 64 near Winchester, currently ends at its intersection with U.S. 460 in Salyersville. About one-third of the current parkway is a winding, two-lane road that restricts high-speed mobility and limits commerce and investment.
The 2014 Kentucky General Assembly supported Gov. Beshear’s ambitious plan to expand the parkway, providing funding to support pre-construction and construction work on all segments of the 46-mile corridor. The plan calls for widening about 30 miles of existing parkway from two to four lanes, and extended beyond Salyersville along Ky. 114 to Prestonsburg.
“When we’re finished with this project, Kentucky will have a high-speed, four-lane corridor that runs from one end of our state to the other – from Paducah to Pikeville,” Gov. Beshear said. “In doing so, we will complete the vision of the man for whom this road is named, the late Gov. Bert T. Combs.”
“The benefits of this expansion will pay dividends for eastern Kentucky as well as the entire state, for years to come,” said Senate President Robert Stivers.
“Since the first day I stepped foot in Frankfort, I have advocated for a four-lane road for Eastern Kentucky,” said House Speaker Greg Stumbo. “It is difficult to think of a single project that could do more for us than widening the Mountain Parkway and extending four-lane access from Pikeville to Lexington. Today’s groundbreaking will long be remembered as a major milestone in our region’s history, so I want to thank Gov. Beshear and my General Assembly colleagues for helping to make this possible. It’s a dream come true for those of us who live and work here.”
The four-laning of Mountain Parkway is a key goal supported by the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative, which was created last year by Gov. Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers. Expanding the Mountain Parkway will open the physical access to the region, promoting investment, tourism, and education opportunities, all of which are critical to the future success of eastern Kentucky.
“This is a monumental day for Eastern Kentucky. The extension of this parkway represents the extension of hope and opportunity for the future of our region,” said Congressman Rogers. “Thanks to federal funding, we were able to speed up progress for this project designed by Governor Beshear and our state legislators, adding momentum to the SOAR initiative.”
“The widening of the Mountain Parkway falls directly in line with SOAR's mission to improve job creation capacity in eastern Kentucky,” said Jared Arnett, the new executive director of SOAR. “This project will remove a great barrier to commerce between our region and the rest of the state. It is a historic day that SOAR is proud to support.”
“The Mountain Parkway Expansion will provide a brighter future for all residents of Eastern Kentucky,” said Rep. John Short, of Hindman.
“The Mountain Parkway Expansion is a major milestone in Eastern Kentucky’s continued development. This project enables Eastern Kentucky citizens to better connect to the rest of the state and compete, and this expansion is a critical catalyst for a promising future,” said Senator Brandon Smith, of Hazard.
A $24 million federal grant announced last month by Gov. Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers jumpstarted pre-construction work immediately east of the eastern end of the parkway.
The widening of a 2.4 mile commercial corridor, known locally as Restaurant Row, will begin in 2016, more than two years ahead of schedule as a result of a competitive grant from the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.
“On behalf of the citizens of Salyersville, I would like to thank all those responsible for making the widening of the Mountain Parkway through the city of Salyersville a reality,” said Salyersville Mayor James Shepherd. “The positive economic impact it will have on our area will allow Salyersville to continue to grow and prosper.”
“The widening of the Mountain Parkway will improve safety for the million vehicles traveling through our community every year. It will jumpstart our local economy and provide long term economic opportunities for the entire region,” said Magoffin County Judge-Executive Charles “Doc” Hardin. “Governor Beshear will be remembered by generations to come as a true friend of Eastern Kentucky.”
The project team will finalize design and complete geotechnical work to bring the Restaurant Row segment to shovel-ready status by mid-2016, said Marshall Carrier, KYTC project manager for the Mountain Parkway Expansion.
Construction on the 6-mile segment to the west of Salyersville will begin before year’s end as crews begin clearing work in the coming weeks along the parkway near Gifford Road, Carrier said.
Story provided by Governor Steve Beshear's Communications Office