FRANKFORT – Gov. Steve Beshear Wednesday announced a milestone accomplishment for Kentucky transportation – federal approval of an agreement by which a 38-mile section of the Wendell H. Ford Western Kentucky Parkway will be designated Interstate 69 this fall. It is the first segment of what eventually will become an I-69 corridor from Henderson to Fulton, incorporating the Julian Carroll Purchase Parkway, Edward T. Breathitt Pennyrile Parkway and a portion of I-24 in addition to the Wendell Ford Western Kentucky Parkway.
“This is a breakthrough for the people of Kentucky – and especially for folks in the Pennyrile region,” 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.”
“But we are not finished,” Beshear said. “Now we turn to the work still ahead of us to complete an entire I-69 corridor from the Ohio River at Henderson to the Tennessee border at Fulton.”
The agreement, which Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez approved on Aug. 25, covers the Ford/Western Kentucky Parkway from its interchange with I-24 near Eddyville to its interchange with the Breathitt/Pennyrile Parkway near Nortonville, in Hopkins County.
The agreement spells out improvements the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will undertake to bring parts of the parkway up to interstate standards. It also identifies design features that are at less than interstate standard but which the Federal Highway Administration has deemed acceptable.
Once the agreed improvements have been advertised to construction contractors, the designated section of the Ford/Western Kentucky Parkway will be eligible for the distinctive red, white and blue shield signs that identify interstate routes. In addition, about 17 miles of I-24, from Eddyville to the Carroll/Purchase Parkway interchange, will also bear I-69 signs, making the total, initial I-69 designation 55 miles long.
Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said the projects should be advertised by Sept. 30, for inclusion in a construction contract letting that is scheduled Oct. 21. The work will include upgrading bridge rails and guardrails, improving exit and entrance ramps to meet interstate standards, and raising some overpass bridges to increase clearance.
Future agreed improvements will include widening paved shoulders and reconstructing the KY 109 interchange at Dawson Springs.
A section of I-69 extends now from Indianapolis to Port Huron, Mich., passing through Muncie and Fort Wayne, Ind. Another segment of the interstate has been proposed to extend south to the Mexican border in Texas. Eventually, that segment will incorporate part of Kentucky's state parkway system, along with a short segment of I-24, to extend from Henderson south to Fulton, in southwest Kentucky.