Gov. Steve Beshear joined local and state offi- cials last week to ceremonially open the much-anticipated first half of the U.S. 460 realignment project in Pike County – an 8-mile, $283 million project.
Speaking to a full gymnasium at Shelby Valley High School, Beshear emphasized the importance and need of this project.
“For nearly a half century, the citizens of Pike County as well as the Appalachian region have waited patiently for this day to arrive,” Beshear said in a statement. “ When complete, the project will serve as a main artery that will connect U.S. 23 and the Coalfields Expressway in Virginia. This historic opening paves the way for economic opportunity while addressing the improved mobility and safety aspects of the project.”
The 8-mile realignment project, for which construction began in 2001, includes four 12-foot lanes with two 12-foot shoulders and nine bridges at a price tag exceeding $ 282.5 million. The entire roadway, from U.S. 23 to the Virginia state line, is expected to cost somewhere around $700 million, which will make it the biggest road project the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has ever undertaken east of Lexington.
The U.S. 460 corridor through Pike County, called Corridor Q in ARC’s listing of Appalachian Project Development highways, is a 16.7-mile stretch which runs from U.S. 23 at Sookey’s Creek, south of Pikeville, to the Virginia state line near Breaks Interstate Park, where it meets a connector to that state’s Coalfields Expressway.
In 2004, the Kentucky General Assembly named the new U.S. 460 after Brandon Rowe and Brent Coleman, who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.
“It is difficult to overstate just how important the U.S. 460 project is to our region and what it means when it comes to traffic safety and economic development,” said Rep. Leslie Combs, of Pikeville, who chairs the Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation. “ I have been proud to support this project from the beginning, and I’m certainly happy that we have passed the halfway point and are just a few years away from completion.”
Plans for the Appalachian Corridor System began in the late 1960s, soon after the Appalachian Regional Commission was established by Congress. There are a total of 13 Appalachian states, part or all of which are included in ARC’s territory. When U.S. 460 is finished, it will complete the ARC corridor system in Kentucky, which also includes U.S. 23 and U.S. 119. The final section of U.S. 119, from the south side of Pine Mountain in Letcher County to the Harlan County line, is under construction and should be completed before the rest of U.S. 460 is finished.