Concern expressed over proposal to change Mountain Parkway route

Work is underway on the Magoffin County portion of the Mountain Parkway project near the intersection of Ky. 460, which leads to Paintsville. Officials report that there is a proposal to change the direction of the parkway to U.S. 460 instead of bringing it to Prestonsburg.

Since its inception, the 46-mile Mountain Parkway Expansion Project has been geared to expand the parkway for 16 miles from Salyersville to Prestonsburg. 

Now, however, local officials acknowledge there is a “push” to take it out of Floyd County and move it, instead, to Johnson County.  

Funding has not yet been appropriated for this 16-mile section of the project, and it is not yet in the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s six-year road plan. 

Over the past several years, officials have studied two proposed routes for that 16-mile expansion, one that would widen Ky. 114 from the Magoffin County line to the U.S. 23 intersection in Prestonsburg, and another less expensive route that would expand the parkway via a ridgeline.

Officials report that there is now a third proposal on the table, one that would expand the parkway via U.S. 460 to Johnson County. A public meeting was held on the proposed widening of U.S. 460 in 2014, but that plan was promoted as “part of a larger project recently announced to widen the entire Mountain Parkway corridor between Campton and Prestonsburg.” 

Press releases from the project office still note that the parkway will expand into Prestonsburg. Concerns about the new proposed route, however, are growing. 

The Floyd County Fiscal Court expressed concerns about it during a meeting last week, with Judge-Executive Robbie Williams reporting that the county received its information “from a pretty reliable source.”

He said the county is going to “push back as much as possible.” 

“There’s actually been some budgets, some budgetary information put in place,” Williams said. “I think the governor has told some folks that from an economic standpoint, it’s more feasible for the road to go into Paintsville than it is to go into Floyd County. That’s the basis for their determination, but that’s not good for Floyd County or Pike County. This is the Mountain Parkway. We don’t need (U.S.) 23 coming into Paintsville, and then you have I64, 35 miles north coming from Lexington. It makes, it doesn’t make any sense to me.”

County Attorney Keith Bartley called it “nonsensical.”

Williams said, “What they’re saying is it’s going to cost so much money to come up Middle Creek. That’s their excuse. Excuses, excuses, you know how that works.”

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Highway District 12 Information Officer Sara George wasn’t aware of a proposal to shift the path of the Ky. 114 portion of the project until she was questioned by newspaper last week. After seeking more information, she reported via email that there is, in fact, a “push” to move it out of Prestonsburg.

“Apparently there is a push by some people to shift the alignment of the section from Salyersville to Prestonsburg to an alignment that would take the Parkway from Salyersville toward Paintsville,” she wrote. “However, this part of the Parkway is not even in the current State Highway Plan. The Transportation Cabinet is now working on the new State Highway Plan, which will be presented to the legislature in January 2020 for approval and funding.”

She continued, “In other words, nothing is approved, finalized or funded at the present time, for either alignment, from Salyersville to Prestonsburg or Salyersville to Paintsville. To my knowledge, there is no formal proposal to change the alignment to go through Paintsville.”

Sen. Johnny Ray Turner, D-Prestonsburg, said Rep. Bobby McCool, R-Paintsville, was “making a push” to change the alignment during this year’s legislative session, but he “didn’t put a lot of credence” into McCool’s efforts. 

He said legislators would work on the budget next year, as George mentioned.

“There’s nothing in place now for the Mountain Parkway to go either direction,” Turner said. “There still has to be funding appropriated for that and there’s a lot of plans. Before that section of the Mountain Parkway will be completed, it’s years down the road.”

Turner said he supports bringing the Mountain Parkway to Prestonsburg instead of Paintsville, but he said he would also support two four-lane roads leading both to Prestonsburg and Paintsville.

“I think it would be fine to take a four-lane road to Paintsville and a four lane road to Prestonsburg both. I think it would help the area tremendously if they would four-lane both of them,” Turner said. “I would be for four-laning to Johnson County if they did the road to Floyd County first.”  

McCool would not confirm whether he is working to have the route changed. He said his focus is just to get the project completed. 

“I’m not going to get into the weeds and act as though I’m an engineer and tell you it’s going to be cheaper or quicker or better to go on one route, over the other one. I don’t have the expertise to do that,” McCool said. “That would be up to those engineers who have the ability to do the studies and funding. That’s another key piece. But if we don’t have this on the six-year road plan, the completion of the Mountain Parkway, then it doesn’t matter which way you want to argue for it. We don’t have the money for whatever happens.”

He said he wants the Mountain Parkway to be completed “from four lane to four lane.”

“Right now, it goes to this side of Salyersville, and from that point on it needs to connect to highway 23,” McCool said. “There’s three options to take it, so let them determine what’s the best options to go there. If it’s 114, then that’s where they need to go. If it’s cross country then that’s where it needs to go. If it’s 460, then that’s the way it needs to go. But that needs to be determined by the engineering studies and safety. We’re not there yet to determine which way we need to go. We’re just at the point that we need to make sure that we get this on the plan so then we can start deciding, well not we, but they can start deciding which way to take it and why.”

He said everyone he’s discussed the project with agrees that it needs to be completed. 

“Everybody agrees that its just got to be completed,” he said. “We don’t need to be arguing about which way it’s going to go right now. It’s too critical. If we start arguing about where it’s going to go to, then it doesn’t get on the six-year plan and none of us are successful.” 

In April 2018, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet awarded a $2.4 million bid to Mountain Enterprises to pave more than nine miles from the Magoffin County line to the entrance of Prestonsburg Elementary. That work began in October, the cabinet reported, and is 96 percent complete.

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