A section of the Wendell H. Ford Western Kentucky Parkway was approved on Aug. 25 by Gov. Steve Beshear to become part of the long-anticipated Interstate 69.
Signs signaling the entrance of the interstate are expected to be seen by the end of the year.
The appropriated section was the 38-mile stretch between I-24 and the Edward T. Breathitt Pennyrile Parkway. I-69 already stretches from Port Huron, Mich., all the way down to the Mexican border in Houston, Texas.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, a road can only become an interstate if it is connected somehow to an existing one. The picked section is planned to be an extending corridor to the already existing I-69.
Steve Beshear, going into his fourth year as state governor, said the new interstate will not only allow for an easier and quicker way across Kentucky but it would help the state with having better communication.
“This is a breakthrough for the people of Kentucky – and especially for folks in the Pennyrile region,” Gov. Beshear said in a press release. “The addition of a second designated interstate highway in the region will open doors for economic development. This is truly a landmark achievement.”
With the addition of I-69, the interstate will be a total of 55 miles long across the state. Kentucky will also be one of the few to have had two interstates, I-24 and I-69, traveling the same route.
Keith Todd, public information officer?of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said the new parkway addition in Kentucky was planned to decrease the distance between far western Kentucky and more central regions in the state.
“What we will be mainly doing is converting a section of I-24 into I-69,” Todd said of the parkway streting from Marshall to Hopkins counties. “By doing this, we will be shortening the distance between numerous Kentucky towns.”
According to Todd, the I-69 corridor was planned to have two main functions-shorten distances between Calvert City to Eddyville and from Madisonville to Henderson. The new interstate was also intended to bring the Julian Carroll/Purchase Parkway closer to Fulton.
Prior to the official signs showing the start of I-69 being put up, the interstate was deemed to undergo some changes in order to meet federal interstate guidelines. Some of the upgrades scheduled are improving exit and entrance ramps to meet interstate standards, raising some overpass bridges to increase clearance and upgrading bridge rails and guardrails.
Todd said once the Federal Interstate Administration approved the plans for I-69, all they had to do was advertise the plans to highway contracters for bids.
“Once the contractors give us their bids, then we can go ahead and start going ahead with the signs,” he said. “The public should expect I-69 to come forth at the end of this year.”
Mike Hancock, Kentucky Transportation secretary, said the bids should be accepted by Oct. 21 and will have a much bigger effect then just improving distance rates.
“This agreement with our partners at FHWA?(Federal Highway Association) is a great example of a practical solution that saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and minimizes an impact on the environment,” Hancock said. “It maximizes the use of one of Kentucky’s great assets, its parkway system, to build upon a great national asset, the interstate highway system.”
An event for the opening of the new corridor is scheduled to take place at the end of October, Todd said.
Beshear said the interstate was just the first step to many of the positive improvements planned for Kentucky.