MORGAN COUNTY, Ky. (Aug. 24, 2021) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear, joined by his senior advisor, Rocky Adkins, transportation officials, state legislators and local leaders, said work on the Mountain Parkway Expansion has reached a major milestone with half of the construction segments now complete.
Gov. Beshear celebrated the expansion’s impact on Eastern Kentucky as he officially opened eight more miles of the parkway between mile marker 57, near Helechawa, and mile marker 65. The Governor also presented a $250,000 ceremonial check representing school safety transportation funding for Morgan County Schools.
“When complete, the 46-mile Mountain Parkway Expansion will be the final, finishing link creating a 400-mile-long, four-lane, high-speed corridor from Paducah to Pikeville,” said Gov. Beshear. “When I ran for Governor, I made a commitment to focus on transportation infrastructure and specifically the Mountain Parkway Expansion. Improved safety and mobility is vitally important for tourism, economic development and overall quality of life for the people who are proud to call Eastern Kentucky home.”
Former Gov. Steve Beshear’s Six-Year Highway Plan was built around the Mountain Parkway Expansion, and the project was also an important part of the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative Steve Beshear launched with Congressman Hal Rogers.
Construction on the Mountain Parkway’s Morgan County segment, which also includes part of Wolfe and Magoffin counties, began in 2017. The extensive work to expand the corridor from two lanes to four involved:
“Morgan County marks the third of six segments completed as part of the full Mountain Parkway Expansion,” Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) Secretary Jim Gray said. “We’re making continual progress to see this project to completion, with active construction and planning underway on other parts of the parkway.”
The first Mountain Parkway Expansion segment, Magoffin County Central, was completed in 2018. The Salyersville/Restaurant Row segment was finished in 2019. Construction of the 4.6-mile Magoffin County West segment is ongoing and expected to be finished by the end of 2022.
Last year, the Beshear administration secured a $55 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund the fifth Mountain Parkway Expansion segment. That portion of the corridor covers 11 miles in Wolfe County.
“We’re currently finalizing right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation for the Wolfe County segment,” said Aric Skaggs, Mountain Parkway project manager for the KYTC. “We anticipate letting a construction contract for the Wolfe County segment by next spring.”
Planning continues for the sixth segment of the Mountain Parkway Expansion, which will extend the parkway approximately 14 miles from Salyersville to Prestonsburg.
Eastern Kentucky legislators, local officials and regional development leaders said the newest completed segment would add to the Mountain Parkway’s legacy of helping their communities grow.
“The continued effort toward expanding the Mountain Parkway is an exciting bipartisan endeavor that dates back to 2014 when Congressman Hal Rogers and then-Gov. Steve Beshear announced it. Bipartisan efforts continue today with the celebration of another milestone,” said Sen. Phillip Wheeler, who represents Morgan County, as well as Elliott, Lawrence, Martin and Pike counties. “I trust that the future of the Mountain Parkway project will include the celebration of bringing opportunity to the Eastern Kentucky region, as well as keeping bright young minds in, and bringing more to, our mountainous home.”
“This much-needed project for Eastern Kentucky has been in the works for several years, and I am pleased to witness the significant progress being made today,” said Sen. Brandon Smith, who represents Magoffin County, as well as Bell, Breathitt, Johnson, Leslie and Perry counties. “Improvements through modern interchanges and wider roads will not only increase safety but also promote the Eastern Kentucky region in a multitude of ways, including new economic development opportunities, tourism and greater access between our home and the rest of the commonwealth. I look forward to the continuation of the Mountain Parkway Expansion project and I am encouraged by the milestones that have been completed to this point.”
“This is great news for our region and the culmination of a lot of work by a number of people – from the crews who poured the concrete to the legislators who helped us get funding for it in the road plan,” said Rep. Bobby McCool, who represents Morgan County, as well as Johnson and Wolfe counties. “Now that more than half of the expansion of the Mountain Parkway is now complete or underway, we can see that work pay off for our region. Safe, reliable transportation is critical to public safety and quality of life. Our roads make it possible transport goods and people, as well as provide the access to quality healthcare and education.”
“The initial construction of the Mountain Parkway was one of the most significant days in the history of our state. This expansion builds on that legacy. I appreciate KYTC for prioritizing this and the Governor for using discretionary funds to bring these improvements one step closer to reality,” said Rep. John Blanton, who represents Magoffin County as well as Knott County and part of Pike County.
“Today is a big day in Morgan County as another section of the Mountain Parkway is celebrated as complete,” said Colby Hall, executive director of SOAR. “I commend SOAR co-principal officer Gov. Beshear, SOAR executive board member and senior advisor Rocky Adkins and the rest of the Governor’s team on this accomplishment. The Mountain Parkway is critical infrastructure helping to connect Eastern Kentucky goods to important markets across the rest of the commonwealth and beyond. As the Mountain Parkway nears finalization, it is further proof Eastern Kentucky’s best days are ahead of it.”
“The Mountain Parkway Expansion will not only provide for a safer roadway with shorter drive times to Eastern Kentucky for visitors, residents and commercial traffic alike, it will be the artery that brings new life to our region economically,” said Matthew C. Wireman, Magoffin County Judge/Executive.
Morgan County School Safety Award
Also in Morgan County, Gov. Beshear presented a $250,000 ceremonial check from KYTC, representing the administration’s commitment to a highway safety project to alleviate traffic congestion in the vicinity of Morgan County High School and Middle School.
The funding is for design of an improvement at the often-congested intersection of U.S. Route 460 and Kentucky Route 191 – the latter leading to the entrance of the school campus complex. KYTC engineers plan to add a right-turn lane on U.S. 460 and a corresponding turn lane running along Kentucky 191 to the campus entrance. That will help relieve congestion and improve traffic flow, which adds up to greater safety.
“As Governor, but also as a parent, keeping our kids safe is my top priority,” Gov. Beshear said. “Putting education first means making sure our students, educators and staff know they’re protected in and around their schools.”
In April, Gov. Beshear announced plans to invest nearly $23 million in highway safety projects near schools to protect students, educators and families in addition to improving conditions for motorists. The Governor charged KYTC with targeting sites and setting priorities for the projects, using state funding allocated in the 2020 Kentucky Highway Plan. Nearly 70 safety improvement projects were identified. The full list can be seen here.