The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is in the midst of conducting a study to determine if the Edward T. Breathitt Pennyrile Parkway can be given an interstate status.

The Southern Pennyrile Chamber Alliance and the Christian County Chamber of Commerce have been advocating for turning the Pennyrile Parkway into an interstate for several years.

Chamber President Carter Hendricks said the designation would be beneficial for the area because it would bring more traffic into Christian County, and it would also be an incentive for industry to locate here.

“We believe it’s always beneficial to have interstates and interstate exchanges in the community,” Hendricks said. “It would stimulate future economic development.”

The chamber first received news about the study a month ago.

Craig Morris, regional planning director for the Pennyrile Area Development District, has been working in close contact with the transportation department on the issue. He said the study began about two months ago and the cabinet is still in the preliminary stages. The cabinet has hired Qk4, a private engineering firm based in Louisville, to do the study.

Morris said the study will determine what work needs to be done on the parkway in order for it to meet interstate standards.

For example, he said, there’s an old interchange at the northern bypass that was originally set up for toll booths. There’s another interchange in Nortonville that was constructed to take into account an old railroad line. Morris said these on and off ramps were constructed differently than they would have been and aren’t necessarily up to interstate standards.

For Morris, this is an important project for Western Kentucky, because if the section of the parkway that connects from Interstate 24 to the Western Kentucky Parkway, it would result in a triangle of interstates in the region, which would make the area more marketable for industrial development.

A possible interstate designation also could potentially double the traffic through the area. According to a cabinet study in 2009, the section of the Pennyrile Parkway that runs through Christian County receives between 14,000 to 16,000 cars on average everyday. By turning the parkway into an interstate, it could see about 30,000 cars everyday.

Morris said he believes it will take between eight to 10 months to complete the study, but there’s very little doubt in his mind that the parkway will become an interstate.

“It will definitely be switched over to an interstate,” he said. “I don’t know if that will be switched over five years from now or 10 years from now. This is a project I know needs to be done.”

Reach Carla Jimenez at 270-887-3262 or cjimenez@kentuckynewera.com.

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