The Mountain Parkway Expansion – a 46-mile transportation improvement project that will create a wider, safer connection between eastern Kentucky and the rest of the Commonwealth – will have a significantly lower price tag when construction begins later this year.
Governor Steve Beshear has unveiled the first of a series of innovative engineering improvements, changes that will reduce the cost of the project by at least $40 million and provide a more direct route for motorists and commercial vehicles.
Gov. Beshear and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet assigned a public-private team of road-building experts to study the preliminary design and seek “value engineering” solutions to help lower the preliminary cost estimate of $753 million.
The route improvements – coupled with a major federal grant announced earlier this month – reduce the total estimated cost of the project by more than $64 million and will move more miles of the project to shovel-ready status.
“Common-sense solutions and innovative thinking are the reasons we have been building and expanding roads and bridges across the Commonwealth through challenging economic times,” Gov. Beshear said. “The Mountain Parkway Expansion is a smart investment in the future of the Commonwealth, its people and our economy because it closes a gap that limits mobility and opportunity for eastern Kentucky.”
Gov. Beshear made the announcement near the western end of the Mountain Parkway in Winchester. The 75-mile parkway was built more than 50 years ago and now ends in Salyersville.
The expansion will close the only gap in a 400-mile, four-lane, high-speed corridor for commerce and mobility across Kentucky from Pikeville to Paducah. The project will widen 30 miles of the existing parkway from two lanes to four lanes, and will extend the parkway another 16 miles by widening KY 114 between Salyersville and Prestonsburg.
“This particular project will bring almost immeasurable benefits to eastern Kentucky, not only by opening up the area to more jobs, but in terms of improved safety,” said Senate President Robert Stivers, of Manchester.
“I’ve said for years that the Mountain Parkway expansion has been one of the most promised roads for years,” said House Speaker Greg Stumbo. “Now, though, the promise is becoming reality, and once complete, this expansion will give Eastern Kentucky the four-lane highway it has long deserved. I want to thank Gov. Beshear, the Transportation Cabinet and my colleagues in the General Assembly for helping to make this possible, and for doing it as economically as possible. It will be a truly historic day once this long-term project is complete.”
The value engineering team began an intensive study of the Morgan and Magoffin County segments of the Mountain Parkway, about 20 miles of the 46-mile project, just weeks after the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly approved funding to begin the multi-year project. This section has the highest accident rates along the parkway.
The team identified a range of potential changes to improve the design and lower the overall cost in the area before recommending three key changes:
•Modifying the Route Near Kernie – The team identified $32.5 million in estimated savings by taking a more direct route to widen the parkway near Kernie in Magoffin County. By moving the existing alignment away from two creeks, the project can avoid the costly construction of five bridges and reduce environmental impacts to streams and adjacent family cemeteries. The modified route will go across a ridgeline, eliminating a loop in the existing roadway.
•Balancing the Grade Near KY 30 – About $3.5 million will be saved by raising the grade of the parkway near the parkway intersection with KY 30 in Magoffin County. The design change will elevate the road slightly, using material excavated from shallower cuts in the peaks to raise the lower portions of the roadway. The cost savings comes from reducing the amount of excavation and material handling.
•Avoiding the Relocation of KY 134 between Wheelrim Road and Johnson Creek Road overpasses – About $4 million will be saved by shifting the parkway alignment and raising the grade slightly near the Wheelrim Road and Johnson Creek Road overpasses in Magoffin County. The original design required relocation of a stretch of KY 134 that runs parallel to the parkway in this area. The modified design will reduce the amount of excavation and material handling, which will reduce costs.
“As design work continues, KYTC and the project team will conduct value engineering analyses on other sections of the existing parkway and the expanded section from Salyersville to Prestonsburg along KY 114,” said KYTC Project Manager Marshall Carrier. “The goal is to identify design improvements that will increase safety, improve mobility and lower overall costs.”
The cost savings announcement comes just two weeks after Kentucky was awarded the largest rural grant in the nation from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER competitive grant program. The $24 million grant will lower the project’s cost to Kentucky taxpayers and speed construction of a crucial section of the expanded parkway in Salyersville.
The grant from the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program will allow construction to begin two years ahead of schedule on a congested 2.4 mile segment that will extend the Mountain Parkway from its easternmost end at U.S. 460 and KY 114 in Salyersville.
The current segment is a bottleneck – with more than 80 entrances for restaurants, stores, medical offices and other properties – that frustrates local motorists and discourages regional commerce and travel.
The expansion of the Mountain Parkway is scheduled to begin before the end of the year. Initial widening work will focus on a 5.5-mile section of the parkway just west of the parkway’s current end at U.S. 460 and KY 114 in Salyersville, Carrier said. Bids are due tomorrow for the first of three construction contracts to be awarded for work in the 5.5-mile section.
Story provided by Governor Steve Beshear's Communications Office