PRESTONSBURG – Progress on the Mountain Parkway expansion was one of the central topics addressed when state and local officials gathered together at Big Sandy Community and Technical College Monday afternoon to discuss recent advancements of the SOAR Project in Eastern Kentucky.
Governor Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers were both on hand at Monday’s meeting with updates about the initiative, and where they see it moving forward. Beshear and Rogers had visited part of the Mountain Parkway expansion earlier that day.
“This whole SOAR effect has had the success it has had because Eastern Kentucky has embraced the process,” said Beshear.
The Mountain Parkway Expansion is a 46-mile transportation improvement project that will create a wider, safer connection between Eastern Kentucky and the rest of the Commonwealth. It is a key transportation project designed to 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.
Beshear noted that the Mountain Parkway is a big part of of SOAR. “It symbolizes the effect Eastern Kentucky is taking to control its own future.”
The nearly $800 million dollar Mountain Parkway expansion construction project is still in its early stages, but the entire project is estimated to be completed or under construction in five years.
Beshear and Rogers visited the first site of construction earlier in the day to see the progress that is transforming the parkway into a modern transportation corridor. They were joined by Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR). The SOAR initiative was formed by Beshear and Rogers to overcome persistent challenges in Eastern Kentucky related to job training, health, education and economic development.
“The project to four-lane and extend the Mountain Parkway all the way to Prestonsburg is on track, and it’s exciting to see this progress in person,” Beshear said. “The General Assembly and I made a commitment to the people of Eastern Kentucky to finish this long overdue project. That’s impressive work by the entire team.”
Governor Beshear, Congressman Rogers and other leaders visited at a project site just west of Salyersville, where construction workers are building a new interchange that will serve a planned industrial park. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock and Mountain Parkway Expansion Project Manager Marshall Carrier led a tour of the site and provided a status report on the overall project.
During Monday’s meeting Carrier stated that the 2016 project works calls for design of the Wolf County segment and final selection of the Route 114 section; the 14 mile stretch of road between Prestonsburg and Salyersville.
Carrier said that currently designers are working with two possible routes. A widening of the current Route 114, or a new overland route separate from Route 114. Because of the costs involved with widening the existing route, designers will examine both options closely.
“Anytime you widen a two lane road into four lane, you have mountain cuts or stream re-locations,” said Carrier. “Its definitely a costly program.”
Gov. Beshear says that the program is moving ahead full steam, after being “in planning for 50 years.” But though everything is moving forward well now, Beshear cautioned those in attendance to not be complacent, and to keep the ball rolling.
“Be vigilant. Because we have to continue the commitment over the next four to five years. If we are, this thing will be built by 2020.”
Jackson Latta can be reached at (606) 886-8506