Plan to extend Mountain Parkway offers growth to eastern Kentucky

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Things move quickly along the Mountain Parkway, in Clark County, but that's pretty easy when there's four lanes. Life on the other end of the Parkway can be quite different as Misty Dulen described, "It's hectic, very hectic. A lot of people like to pass and it's dangerous."

Dulen works by the Mountain Parkway in Wolfe County, and she said that the stretch from Campton to Salyersville can be tricky.

Selena Jarrell, drives that same route, and she agrees. "It just terrifies me that they're going to cut me off, you know."

Jarrell blames the narrow, two-lane roadway for her fears, adding that driving on the Mountain Parkway can be discouraging.

"I'd say a lot of people don't like driving it," she summarized.

That's why she can't wait to see a wider Parkway, and it appears that help could be on the way. Governor Steve Beshear announced on Wednesday that he has a plan to widen and modernize the Mountain Parkway, that was built more than 50 years ago.

"I think it's something that needs to happen. I think it would eliminate a lot of accidents," stated Dulen.

The Mountain Parkway from Winchester to Campton is already four-lanes wide.This plan is to continue that width along the entire 75.6 miles of the road. A plan that the Governor expects will help improve economic development and infrastructure.

The Governor continued to say the shift in the economic region brings a new urgency to the project.

He said, "Not only does that provide access for Eastern Kentuckians to reach other parts of our state, but it creates an easier path for tourists and investors to stream into this vibrant region."

"I don't see a negative side at all. I think it will be a real good thing," answered Dulen.

"We may get some more tourism in, and we need jobs around here," added Jarrell.

These Eastern Kentuckians welcome the $753.6-million project that would expand the 29.8-mile stretch of two-lane highway in their area. A quick breakdown brings that to roughly $2.5 million per mile. Much of the funding will come from the conventional state and federal highway funds over the next six years. That adds up to $595.6 million, and the remainder could come from collecting tolls along the entire Mountain Parkway. Although a plan to collect tolls has not been created and may not be needed until the project is nearly complete, that's according to the Governor's release.

The plan would break down the entire project into four sequences. The first would start from KY 205 in Morgan County to Burning Fork Bridge near Salyersville. The second would be from US 460 from Burning Fork Bridge through a congested retail district, to KY 114. The third sequence would continue to KY 404 at Prestonburg. The final sequence will come back west to the KY 191 in Wolfe County and run to KY 205 in Morgan County.

Now the hardest part will be waiting for the improvements to come and hoping this project gets passed. The Governor is expecting to recommend this project to the General Assembly. The project estimates a completion date by 2020.

The proposal already has praise from House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President Robert Stivers, both of whom are from eastern Kentucky. Stumbo agreed that the project will create an economic lifeline to an area that needs it.

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