Friday, December 5, 2014

US 460 opening changed to December 18

The ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the first half of new US 460 has been changed to Thursday, December 18. The event will be held in the gymnasium at Shelby Valley High School at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. This is a ceremony for the people of Pike County as well as those affected by the new highway, especially the following:

·        The people whose property was acquired to build the road. More than $22.2 million was spent acquiring right of way for the first eight miles of the new highway.
·        Two young men, Jacob Brandon Rowe and Gary Brent Coleman, who gave their lives in service to this country, and for whom the Kentucky General Assembly named the highway.
·        The families of people for whom bridges are named along this eight-mile stretch of the new road.
·        Students at Shelby Valley High School and all others whose lives and travel will be impacted by the road.

Keynote speaker for the event is US Congressman Hal Rogers. Governor Steve Beshear is invited to share keynote honors; however, his attendance is not definitely confirmed at this point. Mary Westfall-Holbrook, Chief District Engineer, Highway District 12, will emcee. Representatives from the Federal Highway Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission are expected to attend.

Westfall-Holbrook said that total cost of the first eight miles exceeded $282.5 million. This includes design, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation, and construction. Cost of the entire 16.7-mile highway is expected to exceed $700 million. Eighty percent of the cost is paid with federal funds; the remaining 20% is funded by the state.

US 460 through Pike County, called Corridor Q in ARC’s listing of Appalachian Project Development highways, is a 16.7-mile stretch which runs from US 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.

Plans for the Appalachian Corridor System began in the late 1960s, soon after the Appalachian Regional Commission was established by the United States Congress. There are a total of 13 Appalachian states, part or all of which are included in ARC’s territory. When US 460 is finished, it will complete the ARC corridor system in Kentucky, which also includes US 23 and US 119. The final section of US 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 US 460 is finished.

Among those expected to attend the December 18 ceremony are representatives of Palmer Engineering, the Winchester firm which designed the highway; contractors and sub-contractors whose companies built the road; and members of Steelworkers Local 14581, whose skilled labor and road-building experience have made the roads in Eastern Kentucky among the safest in the nation.

The bridges, which are named by request of either the Pike Fiscal Court or the Kentucky General Assembly, include the following:

·        Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge – the interchange bridge off US 23 South which serves as the west end entrance to the new highway.
·        Jasper and Anna Justice Bridge – this bridge was dedicated last year because of the declining health of some family members. Local family members will be recognized at the December 18 event. Mr. and Mrs. Justice lived near the bridge location, where they owned and operated a community grocery store.
·        Oliver J. Prater Bridge – Mr. Prater was a World War II US Army veteran who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was later captured by the Japanese and survived the infamous Bataan Death March in the Philippines, where he was held as a  prisoner of war for 42 months.
·        Miles Justice Mr. Justice lived at Shop Branch, Gardner Fork, where he and his wife reared eight daughters and four sons, all of whom settled in the Greasy Creek and Shelby areas of Pike County. Mr. Justice was an entrepreneur in his community, owning a restaurant, grocery store, and several coal mines. This bridge crosses Greasy Creek at Shop Branch.
·        Epling Family Bridge – In honor of John Paul Epling and his family, his late wife, Veronica Johnson Epling, his late son, Ryan Epling, and his son Chris Epling, local artist, author and US Army veteran.
·        Silas William Ratliff – Mr. Ratliff was a farmer and businessman who was born on the family homestead, part of which is located on property directly beneath the bridge and ramp on the Wolfpit-Laurel Branch section.
·        Andy and Mary Carter Bridge – This is the westbound bridge at Marrowbone, also still under construction. The bridge spans the property which the Carters purchased in 1945 from Eldon Mullins. They lived the remainder of their lives there.
·        Eldon and Jollene Mullins Bridge – This bridge is still under construction, but is considered part of the Marrowbone section of the new highway. It spans the property on which Mr. and Mrs. Mullins lived for 53 years, until her death in 2004 and his in 2005. Eldon Mullins was a World War II veteran, a lifelong coal miner, member of the Marrowbone Volunteer Fire Department, Disabled American Veterans, and the United Mine Workers. They were both accomplished bluegrass musicians and vocalists.
·        James and Pearlie Prater – The westbound bridge at Greasy Creek is built over what was the Prater Farm, where Mr. and Mrs. Prater lived for 54 years. They ran Prater Grocery Store as well as a blacksmith shop and leather shop. Mr. Prater worked as a coal miner for 45 years, retiring from Republic Steel in 1961.

Following the ceremony, everyone is invited to join a motorcade to the highway for the actual ribbon-cutting, followed by the first official drive through on the new road. Kentucky State Police and Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement officers will escort the motorcade, which will travel eastbound to Marrowbone, turn around, and return on the westbound lanes to US 23.