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U.S. 421 work included in state road plan

Work on the final section of U.S. 421 is included in the recommended highway plan budget recently submitted by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The plan includes $15 million, budgeted for 2022, for the road from Cranks to the Virginia line. The project has been delayed for several years.

“The completion of U.S. 421 to the Virginia line has been needed for 17 years. Our fiscal court and many civic groups in Harlan County have advocated to previous governors and legislators for years to see this section of roadway completed. I’m elated to see that Governor Beshear is honoring his commitment to this project. — $15 million will get this project moving in the right direction again. For this, I am thankful,” Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley said.

“The U.S. 421 project is critical for the people of Harlan. It is our hope that the project, along with returning every dollar of coal severance money after expenses and reinvesting in education, can lead to a bigger and brighter east Kentucky,” said Governor Andy Beshear.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) presented the 2020 Recommended Highway Plan to lawmakers that prioritizes safety and fast-tracks major regional access projects to improve the quality of life for Kentucky families and boost economic development. The plan features a historic biennium investment of $100 million to improve safety conditions on rural roads through the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), infuses $8 million in the biennium to install more than 100 miles of life-saving guardrail across the state and invests $367.5 million to accelerate progress on the Mountain Parkway and I-69 Ohio River Crossing projects.

“This plan delivers on our commitment to invest in long-awaited regional access projects that can open up economic opportunities in rural regions while providing a responsible approach to improving our highway infrastructure statewide,” said Beshear. “The plan also focuses on highway safety programs and projects designed to make our rural roads and school access safer for our children and families who use these roads every day.”

Mosley said the fight is far from over to get the road completed to Virginia, noting local legislators must work to ensure it becomes a reality. The 13-mile U.S. 421 expansion from Grays Knob the Virginia line began in 1999 and stopped three miles short of its completion in 2004. A small section of the road was completed over the summer to help bring the road out of the flood plain in Cranks.

“The commitment by Governor Andy Beshear is huge but the fight is far from over,” Mosley said. “Gayle Lawson, a transportation advocate for Harlan County for decades, prior to her death, taught me years ago that just because a project is identified for funding in the governor’s proposed budget, it’s not guaranteed. We must rely on Representative Adam Bowling and Representative Chris Fugate to make sure this funding stays in the budget in the House of Representatives version that they approve. We also must then rely on Senator Johnny Ray Turner to make sure the Senate keeps the project in there as well before the budget heads back to the House and then on to the governor’s desk. Our legislative delegation that represents Harlan County knows what a priority this completion is for us for safety reasons and economic and tourism benefit.”

Several other smaller Harlan County projects were also included in the plan. Approximately $8.6 million was in the plan for the Harlan Main Street bridge, spread out over the next three years. Guardrails along KY 3449, KY 1601, KY 179, KY 522, KY 2007, KY 840, KY 987 and KY 72 were also on the plan.

In other regional projects, significant progress is ahead for the Mountain Parkway to revitalize eastern Kentucky and create a safe and modern corridor for residents, businesses and tourism. The recommended highway plan includes a six-year total of $97.3 million to complete the gap between Campton and Salyersville, plus $3.2 million to begin the design phase to widen Parkway east along the existing KY 114 corridor toward Prestonsburg. Once completed, the Mountain Parkway will run more than 90 miles between Interstate 64 and U.S. 23 in eastern Kentucky and complete a four-lane, high-speed route across the length of the state – from Paducah to Pikeville.