National infrastructure leaders visit Frankfort to spotlight Mountain Parkway Expansion

By Jeff Urbanchuk, ACEC

A critical infrastructure project that will connect the state and unlock significant opportunities for economic development, jobs and opportunity for eastern Kentucky was showcased by the national Engineering and Public Works Roadshow today at an event in the rotunda of the New State Capitol Building. 

The current Mountain Parkway Expansion fulfills a promise made more than 60 years ago when the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway opened in 1963 as a two- and four-lane roadway. The road was intended as a high-speed route beyond the interstate highway system to enable the flow of commerce and support tourism between rural Eastern Kentucky and the rest of the Commonwealth. While the original Parkway was expected to run past Saylersville eastward to Hazard, that project was never undertaken. 

The Mountain Parkway Expansion project is now more than 70 percent completed and is expected to be fully realized in 2027. Once complete, it will close the long-standing transportation gap that exists between the citizens of Eastern Kentucky and the rest of the Commonwealth. It will also provide a safer corridor for travel with four lanes of traffic. 

The Engineering and Public Works Roadshow is a joint project of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), the American Public Works Association (APWA), and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

The Roadshow marks the first time the leading organizations representing the designers and public operators of America’s infrastructure have joined together to shine a spotlight on what successful infrastructure investment means for the nation’s economy, jobs, the environment, and our future. 

Many of our organizations’ members have been involved with this project over the last several years, whether with the GEC team or with the design of various sections. Those firms include Qk4, HMB Professional Engineers, Stantec, HDR, Strand Associates, American Engineers, EA Partners, JMT (formerly Vaughn & Melton), HW Lochner, WSP, and Palmer who is serving as lead designer for the Design-Build Team on the final segment of the project.

At today’s press conference, Governor Andy Beshear, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray, FHWA Kentucky Administrator Todd Jeter, state elected officials, and leaders from ACEC, APWA, and ASCE offered comments on the importance of projects like the Mountain Parkway Expansion. 

“The Mountain Parkway expansion will be transformational for the people of Eastern Kentucky and beyond, creating a connection that will boost tourism, economic development and safety in the region,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “We are the generation that is delivering on this decades-old promise, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of our folks in the engineering and public works sectors. This project truly shows what can happen when state, local and federal leaders work together to get big things done.”

“We are literally moving mountains to get this much-needed project done to improve safety, connect communities and revitalize the economy in Eastern Kentucky,” said Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray. “I’m thankful for Gov. Beshear for making this project a priority and for the team of transportation staff, consultants and contractors who are working to make it a reality.”

“We are here today to recognize a transformative project that will make a difference for Kentucky communities for generations to come,” said Steve Hall, executive vice president at the American Council of Engineering Companies. “The Mountain Parkway Expansion is an example of what America’s engineering industry does daily in connecting communities, facilitating economic investment, and creating jobs. We congratulate Gov. Beshear for his determination to see this project through and the bipartisan lawmakers at the federal and state level who are making it happen.”

“When President Eisenhower started America’s interstate highway system in 1956, he called it ‘the greatest public works project in history’,”APWA Past-President Keith Pugh said. “There are many great public works projects happening in Kentucky… but the Mountain Parkway Expansion we are feting today is one of the most transformative.”

“The Mountain Parkway Expansion is an extraordinary project that puts people first,” said Marsia Geldert-Murphey, president, American Society of Civil Engineers. “Connecting people, improving the lives of people, and relying on skilled people to push the project forward efficiently. It also takes dedicated leaders prioritizing their communities to ensure projects such as this make it across the finish line. Thank you, Gov. Beshear, for being that leader and to the countless others who helped improve life for Kentucky’s residents.” 

The Mountain Parkway Expansion project would be impossible without the cooperation of state and federal elected officials working together to fund such a significant infrastructure project. In his State of the State address earlier this month, Gov. Beshear called for $300 million to speed the completion of the Mountain Parkway Expansion. The commonwealth is also waiting on federal grant funds through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to be used for the project.

As the federal government continues to implement this monumental legislation, the second year of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will not be fully realized without an expanded and robust workforce. Students nationwide must be educated about the rewarding careers of civil engineering and public works so these professions have the necessary staffing to complete transformative projects.

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