Interstate 69 in Kentucky

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This article is about the section of Interstate 69 in Kentucky. For the entire length of the highway, see Interstate 69.

Interstate 69 marker

Interstate 69
Route information
Maintained by KYTC
Length: 55.3 mi (89.0 km)
Existed: October 25, 2011 – present
History: Signed into law in 2008; 55.3-mile section from Calvert City to Nortonville signed on Oct 25, 2011.
Major junctions
South end: I‑24 / Purchase Pkwy. in Calvert City (current)
I-69 at Tennessee border in Fulton (future)
  I‑24 in Eddyville
North end: Pennyrile Pkwy. in Nortonville (current)
I-69 at Indiana border in Henderson (future)
Highway system
US 68 KY 69

Interstate 69 (I-69) is a 55.3-mile (89.0 km) freeway that overlaps Interstate 24 from Calvert City to Eddyville, and the Western Kentucky Parkway from Eddyville to the Pennyrile Parkway at Nortonville. Eventually, I-69 will pass through the western part of the U.S. state of Kentucky. The proposed route for the remainder of I-69 in Kentucky runs approximately 145 miles (233 km) utilizing segments of existing parkways and a 17-mile (27 km) overlap with Interstate 24.

I-69 has been divided into three of sections of independent utility (SIUs) through Kentucky. SIUs 5 and 6 encompass existing freeways. Federal legislation has designated the route for these sections and Kentucky is in the process of installing I-69 signs on the route. SIU 4 includes a new bridge over the Ohio River between Henderson and Evansville, Indiana, which is currently stalled due to lack of funding. The proposed funding formula calls for Kentucky to finance 2/3 of the projected $1.4 billion bridge, while Indiana would pay for the remaining third.

Federal legislation designating Parkways as I-69[edit]

On May 2, 2008, the United States House of Representatives passed HR-1195 (SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Act of 2008) which designates the Pennyrile Parkway from Henderson to Nortonville, and the Western Kentucky Parkway from Nortonville to I-24 at Eddyville as I-69. It further designates the Audubon Parkway as a future spur (I-X69) of I-69 once necessary upgrades are completed. President Bush signed the bill on June 6, 2008 and I-69 signs began appearing on the Parkways during the summer of 2008.[1][2][3][4] This legislation applied the I-69 designation to the following roadways:

Signs on the Western Kentucky Parkway now read "I-69" and "Former Wendell H. Ford Western Kentucky Parkway" from the Pennyrile Parkway to the intersection of the Western Kentucky Parkway at I-24 (as the photo of I-69 at Dawson Springs shows).[5]

I-69 near Dawson Springs, KY

Signage and mile marker posts were changed in mid-December 2012.[6]

SIU 5[edit]

On May 15, 2006, Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher announced that I-69 will encompass 130 miles (209 km) of existing parkways and a 17-mile (27 km) segment of Interstate 24.[7] To reflect this decision by state and federal officials, crews began erecting Future Interstate 69 signs along the following highway segments:

A recent engineering study for SIU 5 identified current conditions along the Pennyrile and Western Kentucky Parkways. The report identified seven overpasses that fell short of the 16-foot minimum vertical clearance necessary for Interstate Highways. An additional 28 mainline bridges were identified for not meeting the minimum horizontal clearance of 38 feet (12 m). Most—if not all—of the aforementioned bridges were built during construction of the Parkways in the 1960s and are nearing the end of their serviceable lifespans and are due to be replaced. The main issues concerning the 16 interchanges in SIU 5 are short acceleration/deceleration lanes (the average is 615 feet (187 m) while Interstate standards mandate 1,200 feet (370 m)), and tight curve radii at interchanges with loop ramps.[8] A particular challenge will be reconfiguring the cloverleaf interchange between the Pennyrile and Western Kentucky Parkways in Nortonville to accommodate the future movement of traffic primarily between points north and points west.

According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet 2006 Six-Year Transportation Plan Executive Summary, the KYTC "has recently completed a study of the parkway upgrade needs from Interstate 24 to Henderson" (SIU 5). The summary further stated that "Continuing work on Interstate 69 in Kentucky will depend upon the financial support that can be garnered for the project through federal reauthorization and appropriations processes." The Transportation Plan estimated that the cost of upgrading the parkways would cost around $700 million.

Nonetheless, the required improvements may be performed on individual segments of the parkways when the existing road surfaces reach the end of their life-spans, in what are known as "Pavement Preservation Projects." During a pavement preservation project, the existing pavement is removed, repairs are made to the highway's sub-base, and the road is then resurfaced. During such a project bridges and overpasses may be rehabilitated or replaced, drainage systems are upgraded, and other modifications are made to improve safety on the road without completely reconstructing it, allowing it to remain at least partially open during construction.

Two projects on the Edward T. Breathitt Pennyrile Parkway and the Wendell H. Ford Western Kentucky Parkway in Hopkins County are evidence that Kentucky is taking this approach. In 2007, work is expected to begin on a $14.9 million project to replace 7 miles (11 km) of pavement on the Pennyrile Parkway segment slated for the I-69 designation. A similar $23 million project in 2005 replaced and upgraded 11 miles (18 km) of pavement on the Western Kentucky Parkway west of the interchange with the Pennyrile Parkway, which is also slated to become part of I-69 and I-66 as well.

Several public meetings were held in towns along the Parkways in late November and early December 2007 where Kentucky officials provided detailed information on upgrading the Parkways including changes to the projected cost for the upgrades. The adjusted cost of upgrading the parkways in SIUs 5 and 6 was pegged at around $300 million, significantly lower than initial estimates of $700 million. Of that $300 million price tag, high-priority projects account for about half ($145 million) of the total cost. Kentucky transportation officials also raised the idea of applying for a waiver that would allow the parkways to immediately be signed as I-69, making the parkways eligible for federal Interstate Highway funds to complete the upgrades. Without the I-69 designation the parkway sections slated to become I-69 are not eligible for Interstate Highway funds for upgrades.[9] Kentucky officials announced that no funding for I-69 was included in the 2008-2014 Transportation Improvement Plan, and many legislators believe that tolls will be required to finance upgrades to the parkways.[10]

In January 2010, Governor Steve Beshear released the latest draft Six-Year Plan for consideration by the Kentucky Legislature. The proposed plan includes the reconstruction of several interchanges on the Pennyrile and Western Kentucky Parkways. The proposed work would upgrade the intechanges to Interstate standards as required to get the parkways signed as I-69. If the plan is approved and funded, the interchange work would begin in 2012 and be finished by 2015.

SIU 6[edit]

From Eddyville, I-69 will follow I-24 for 17 miles (27 km), then turn southwest on the Purchase Parkway. Interstate 69's designation along the Julian M. Carroll Purchase Parkway from I-24 to the Tennessee state line at South Fulton was written into law with the Fiscal Year 2002 Transportation Appropriations Bill.[11] However, many of the same issues that are being addressed in SIU 5 arise in SIU 6 as well, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky will likely approach upgrading the Purchase Parkway in a similar fashion once funding becomes available. The massive interchange with US-45 and US-51 at the Tennessee state line in South Fulton is the main challenge for completing SIU 6.

Kentucky is the only state that will be routing almost its entire portion of I-69 over existing freeways, allowing the state to avoid years of costly environmental studies, thereby enabling the KYTC to upgrade the Parkways to I-69 as soon as funding becomes available. Technically, the Commonwealth of Kentucky could request a waiver from the AASHTO that would allow the state to apply the I-69 designation to its parkways before upgrades are completed. This would only be done if adjoining segments in Tennessee or Indiana are completed first.

Reinstate tolls?[edit]

The Pennyrile Parkway, Western Kentucky Parkway, and Purchase Parkway were all originally built as toll roads when they opened in the 1960s. As the parkways' construction bonds were paid off, the tolls were removed; the Western Kentucky Parkway became a freeway in 1987, and the other two roads became free in 1992. To fund over $700 million to upgrade substandard segments of the parkways and fund a new $800 million Ohio River crossing for I-69, Kentucky transportation officials are considering reinstating tolls on the parkway segments over which I-69 is routed.


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