Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear joined local and state officials to ceremonially open the much-anticipated first half of the U.S. 460 realignment project in Pike County – an 8-mile, $283 million project.
Speaking to a full gymnasium at Shelby Valley High School, Gov. Beshear emphasized the importance and need of this project.
“For nearly a half century, the citizens of Pike County as well as the Appalachian region have waited patiently for this day to arrive,” said Gov. Beshear. “When complete, the project will serve as a main artery that will connect U.S. 23 and the Coalfields Expressway in Virginia. This historic opening paves the way for economic opportunity while addressing the improved mobility and safety aspects of the project.”
The 8-mile realignment project, for which construction began in 2001, includes four 12-foot lanes with two 12-foot shoulders and nine bridges at a price tag exceeding $282.5 million. The entire roadway, from U.S. 23 to the Virginia state line, is expected to cost somewhere around $700 million, which will make it the biggest road project the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has ever undertaken east of Lexington.
The U.S. 460 corridor through Pike County, called Corridor Q in ARC’s listing of Appalachian Project Development highways, is a 16.7-mile stretch which runs from U.S. 23 at Sookey’s Creek, south of Pikeville, to the Virginia state line near Breaks Interstate Park, where it meets a connector to that state’s Coalfields Expressway.
In 2004, the Kentucky General Assembly named the new U.S. 460 after Brandon Rowe and Brent Coleman, who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.
“U.S. 460 is one of the most important infrastructure projects eastern Kentucky has seen in decades and will be an integral part of our future,” said Sen. Ray Jones, of Pikeville. “These improvements will lead to economic benefits for our region and state. This will make travel easier and safer for local traffic and provide our region with greater accessibility. I am glad that I was able help secure funding for this significant project.”
“It is difficult to overstate just how important the U.S. 460 project is to our region and what it means when it comes to traffic safety and economic development,” said Rep. Leslie Combs, of Pikeville, who chairs the Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation. “I have been proud to support this project from the beginning, and I’m certainly happy that we have passed the halfway point and are just a few years away from completion. It will be a new day for eastern Kentucky when this project and the Mountain Parkway widening are finished.”
Plans for the Appalachian Corridor System began in the late 1960’s, soon after the Appalachian Regional Commission was established by the United States Congress. There are a total of 13 Appalachian states, part or all of which are included in ARC’s territory. When U.S. 460 is finished, it will complete the ARC corridor system in Kentucky, which also includes U.S. 23 and U.S. 119. The final section of U.S. 119, from the south side of Pine Mountain in Letcher County to the Harlan County line, is under construction and should be completed before the rest of U.S. 460 is finished.
Palmer Engineering, of Winchester, designed the whole highway realignment to the Virginia line. Several contractors and sub-contractors were also involved with the design and construction of the project, which include:
Vaughn & Melton, Integrated Engineering, Hall-Harmon, Engineers, ICA Engineers, GRW Engineers, QK4, Bush & Burchett, Bizzack Construction, Elmo Greer & Sons, Mountain Enterprises, H2O Construction Company, KVWV Traffic Control Pipecheck, Tom Wright Construction, SAF-TI-CO, Spartan Construction, Haydon Brothers Contracting, Dallas Dean, East Cumberland, Pro-Mark, Davis H. Elliott Company, Jag, Bar-Tie Reinforcing NWK Construction, Charbon Contracting, Schnabel Foundation Company, Mid Atlantic Maintenance Corporation, Stantec, Horn Drilling, Kay & Kay Contracting, Hi-View, Big Meadow Oil Company and Warco Land Improvement.
The anticipated completion date for the second half of the project is 2020.
The bridges, named at the request of either the Pike County Fiscal Court or the Kentucky General Assembly, include the following:
•Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge – the interchange bridge off US 23 south which serves as the west end entrance to the new highway.
•Jasper and Anna Justice Bridge –The Justice’s lived near the bridge location, where they owned and operated a community grocery store.
•Oliver J. Prater Bridge – Oliver Prater was a World War II U.S. Army veteran who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was later captured by the Japanese and survived the infamous Bataan Death March in the Philippines, where he was held as a prisoner of war for 42 months.
•Miles Justice – Miles Justice lived at Shop Branch, Gardner Fork, where he and his wife along with eight daughters and four sons, settled in the Greasy Creek and Shelby areas of Pike County. Justice was an entrepreneur in his community, owning a restaurant, grocery store and several coal mines. This bridge crosses Greasy Creek at Shop Branch.
•Epling Family Bridge – In honor of John Paul Epling, late wife, Veronica Johnson Epling, late son, Ryan Epling and son Chris Epling, local artist, author and U.S. Army veteran.
•Silas William Ratliff – Silas Ratliff was a farmer and businessman born on the family homestead, part of which is located on property directly beneath the bridge and ramp on the Wolfpit-Laurel Branch section.
•Andy and Mary Carter Bridge – This westbound bridge at Marrowbone is still under construction. The bridge spans the property that the Carters purchased in 1945 from Eldon Mullins. They lived the remainder of their lives at this location.
•Eldon and Jollene Mullins Bridge – This bridge is still under construction, but is considered part of the Marrowbone section of the new highway. It spans the property on which the Mullins lived for 53 years, until her death in 2004 and his in 2005. Eldon Mullins was a World War II veteran, a lifelong coal miner, member of the Marrowbone Volunteer Fire Department, Disabled American Veterans and the United Mine Workers. They were both accomplished bluegrass musicians and vocalists.
•James and Pearlie Prater – The westbound bridge at Greasy Creek is built over what was the Prater Farm, where the Praters lived for 54 years. They ran Prater Grocery Store as well as a blacksmith shop and leather shop. Mr. Prater worked as a coal miner for 45 years, retiring from Republic Steel in 1961.
•Noah Branham, Sr. Memorial Bridge – the westbound bridge at Sookey’s Creek is named after the local resident whose family homestead was near the bridge.
Story provided by Governor Steve Beshear's Communications Office