Groundbreaking set for new US 460; sections of highway may be open to traffic in three years
Posted: 31-Jan-2011 10:55PM CST
From the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Department of Highways District 12:
PIKE COUNTY – January 12, 2011 – Friday, January 21, at 12:30 p.m. Governor Steve Beshear will join federal, state, and local officials to break ground for Corridor Q, the name given by the Appalachian Regional Commission for new US 460 in Pike County.
If weather permits, the event will be held at the Stonecoal Development Site on KY 1373 (Beaver Creek) near Elkhorn City. Variable message boards will direct traffic to the site, which is on KY 1373, off KY 80 across from the Terry Taylor Bridge at John Moore Branch.
If the temperature is below 40 degrees, the ceremony will move to Artists Collaborative Theatre on Patty Loveless Drive in Elkhorn City.
“Indoors or outside, either way,” explained Sara George, event coordinator, “we will gather at the theatre for a reception. If the weather is bitter cold, folks should probably just go to the theatre. We will ask the media folks to meet the public officials at Stonecoal, do the actual shoveling to break ground, and then adjourn to the theatre for the ceremony and reception.”
The ceremony is an historic moment for the transportation and economic development future of Pike County and all of Southeastern Kentucky and Southwestern Virginia. The event is the first ceremonial groundbreaking for US 460 and will celebrate the recent award of over $94 million towards construction of the highway from US 23 to the Breaks Interstate Park in Virginia. These project segments include (1) the US 460 – US 23 interchange, (2) the Greasy Creek to Snake Branch section, and (3) the section from KY 80 into Beaver Creek.
The event location, the Stonecoal Development Site on KY 1373, is one of five sites created with excess excavation material from the project. Each of these sites is a designated economic development location. The other four are at Wolfpen, John Moore Branch, Jessie Branch, and the Left Fork of Wolfpit. “These sites are almost as important to the economic future of our region as the road itself,” observed Kevin Damron, Chief District Engineer, Highway District 12. “EQT just broke ground for its headquarters at the Scott Fork Development Site on US 119, a location similar to the five being created along US 460. Of particular significance is the proposed John Moore Branch location that will result in over 120 acres of land. This groundbreaking will mark the start of work to haul excess excavation into the John Moore Branch site.”
Damron pointed out that work on US 460 is continuing despite the state’s tight budget situation. “Eighty percent of the funding is federal,” he explained. “US 460 is an Appalachian Project Development road, which means eighty percent is funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission. But Kentucky still has to match that with twenty percent of the cost, and Governor Beshear is committed to finishing the APD roads in Kentucky.” A portion of US 119 in Letcher County and US 460 in Pike County are the only two remaining APD projects in the state.
Work started on new US 460 when the first contract was awarded in 2002, but no groundbreaking was held at that time because there was no access to the new roadway alignment until the contractor made one. Progress over the past nine years has been steady, with six of the 20 sections/items complete and another five under construction. None of the finished sections are open to traffic because they either do not connect to each other, there are bridges to be built, or because the interchanges (entrance and exit ramps) have not been finished.
“The work so far has not impacted main line traffic,” said John Michael Johnson, US 460 project manager for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. “In a few instances, like the section at Greasy Creek, residents could tell that construction was under way, but the majority of the areas under construction can’t even be seen from the current highway.” Two of the recently awarded sections are key components of the US 460 corridor that will allow for opening the highway from US 23 to Greasy Creek (KY 3226) and Marrowbone (KY 195), hopefully within three years. The third, the Beaver Creek section, includes exit ramps for KY 80 and will also be the primary access into Elkhorn City.
Construction activities on KY 80 at Beaver to east of Beaver bottom will eventually be disruptive to traffic. “Not for a while, though,” Johnson said. “It will be up in the late spring or summer before folks traveling through Elkhorn City experience any kind of temporary inconvenience.”
Existing US 460 was built in the 1930s and 1940s, with some spot improvements in the 1960s and 1980s. It is a two-lane roadway with steep grades and numerous sharp curves with shallow or no shoulders.
The expected completion date for the new highway is 2020. The overall project involves 64 lane miles of road (a 16-mile four-lane highway) and 21 bridges. Depressed medians and wide shoulders make the new alignment safer and easier to maintain. Although not built to interstate standards, it is only one step below a fully controlled access interstate or parkway with partially controlled access, and has many of the same safety features. The bridges range from four-lane overpasses to twin two-lane structures, one of which will be 320 feet high from the roadway to the ravine below. Another bridge will be twin structures 2400 feet long each with spans up to 500 feet in length.
The alignment of the roadway, which begins at US 23 south of Pikeville and ends at the Virginia state line, limits the roadway’s impact on the environment. According to Sam Hale, PE, Engineering Branch Manager at Highway District 12, the fact that the new road is higher on the ridges than the current highway limits the impact on streams and rivers below.
It is expected that more than 100 million cubic yards of rock and dirt will have been moved by the time the road is entirely completed. The Terry Taylor Bridge leading into John Moore Branch was built to accommodate the weight of loaded 777 rock trucks. Hale said he expects about nine million cubic yards of material will be hauled across this bridge to create the 120-acre development site there.
To sum up the importance of the project, Kevin Damron said that the Appalachian Regional Commission’s goal when it was formed in the late 1960s was to eliminate the geographic isolation of Eastern Kentucky. “This goal will be fully realized when 460 is finished. With US 119, US 23, and now US 460, Eastern Kentucky will be able to compete successfully in the economic arena with any other location in the country.
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