Expanded U.S. 119 picking up speed

Harlan is the only county in the state without a major four-lane highway. Leaders in my hometown want the project to start with widening the road from Harlan to Pineville. A move most will agree is vital to the county’s economic future.

A petition drive in Harlan County is gathering support to four-lane U.S. 119 from Pineville to the West Virginia line. 

Harlan is the only county in the state without a major four-lane highway.  Leaders in my hometown want the project to start with widening the road from Harlan to Pineville.  A move most will agree is vital to the county’s economic future.

We talked with Congressman Hal Rogers and Governor Steve Beshear about the highway project. 

My good friend John Henson hit the nail on the head in a recent Harlan Daily Enterprise Editorial. 

Expanded U.S. 119 picking up speed

We shouldn’t get our hopes up too much, but it seems the expansion of U.S. 119 in Harlan and Bell counties is gaining a lot of momentum.

A story in today’s Enterprise describes a recent Harlan County Fiscal Court meeting during which Magistrate Jim Roark discussed efforts to collect signatures on a petition to expand U.S. 119 to four lanes between Harlan and Pineville. David Kennedy, who represents the Tri-City area and is also an advocate for improved roads, suggested the request to state officials be expanded to include U.S. 119 all the way to Cumberland.

We’ll take what we can get now, and it seems more likely the Harlan-to-Pineville section would be addressed first, but as Kennedy points out, U.S. 119 is four lanes all the way from Jenkins to Charleston, W.Va., with Harlan the only county that doesn’t have a four-lane road since Bell has U.S. 25E and Letcher has U.S. 23.

The fiscal court has been very vocal lately, after years of silence, about improved roads. Perhaps some of the city governments in Harlan County can find the time between their arguments and their search for lost funds to send a letter to support a project that would improve our county’s future.

The Harlan County Chamber of Commerce has also been extremely active of late in the push for the expansion of U.S. 119, as evidenced by a letter from Chamber President Dan Mosley to Senator Mitch McConnell discussing the $3 million allocated for improvements.

“The Harlan County Chamber of Commerce, Harlan County Fiscal Court and thousands of citizens and other civic organizations in our county feel that U.S. 119 from Harlan to Pineville is the top priority for the economic and tourism benefits to the county,” said the letter. “Petitions have been circulated to gather signatures for the support of expanding this roadway to four lanes. We will be collecting the petitions in the near future and presenting copies to state legislators and transportation officials in Frankfort.”

Mosley reminds McConnell that U.S. 119 is four-laned everywhere except in Harlan and Bell counties and points out that “our economic viability rests on the expansion of this road.”


Those who argue that U.S. 119 doesn’t need work as badly as several other roads in the county, such as KY 72 and KY 38, are missing out on the big picture, a common problem for Harlan County through the decades.

Numerous roads in our county are dangerous and need improvements, but we must find a way to make it easier to get to Harlan County from the rest of the planet, and the only way to do that is to expand U.S. 119 and U.S. 421 or build a new road. Improving U.S. 119 is the most logical choice at this point, even though a new U.S. 421 to Hazard is a close second for me.

But now is the time for Harlan Countians to abandon their personal agendas and present a united front and work to achieve a crucial goal for the entire county.


Take a look at Kentucky's six-year road plan for yourself.  I welcome your thoughts and opinions.

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Neil Middleton
WYMT Mountain News
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