By Joan C. McKinney, news and publications coordinator
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – The Hon. Brett Guthrie, U.S. Representative-Elect from Kentucky’s second congressional district, announced his strong support for the
proposed Heartland Parkway during the inaugural meeting of the Kentucky
Heartland Parkway Foundation Inc. at Centre Square in Lebanon on Dec. 3.
“The Heartland Parkway Foundation Inc., a nonprofit corporation with tax exempt status, has been formed to educate the public and build sustained support for the proposed 60-mile Heartland Parkway Project, “ said John Chowning, Campbellsville University vice president for church and external relations and executive assistant to the president, who serves as chair of the group.
Patty Dunaway, head of the District Four office of the Transportation Cabinet in Elizabethtown, said that the preliminary engineering and environmental study on a portion of the project will be moving forward. More information on future meetings related to the study will be announced by her office.
She said the Transportation Cabinet has been given a challenge to look at all projects to make sure they are fiscally responsible as a part of a “practical solutions” review process.
Other officers of the HPF Board include Washington County Judge-Executive John Settles of Springfield, vice chair; Columbia Mayor Pat Bell, secretary; and Lebanon City Administrator John O. Thomas, treasurer.
Chowning said the Heartland Parkway is a project that was started in 2000-01 with the support of Congressman Ron Lewis, R-Ky., and the board’s mission is to educate the public on the importance of the construction of a four-lane highway along the Kentucky 555/55 corridor starting at the Martha Layne Collins Bluegrass Parkway north of Springfield, Ky., to the Louie B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway at Columbia, Ky.
Chowning said the proposed parkway will serve as a major north-south connector that will open up the very heartland of Kentucky and help facilitate in the economic diversification and quality of life in the region.
He said the Heartland Parkway will be costly and long-term and will require regional cooperation. The option being studied is adding lanes to the existing Kentucky 555/55 corridor rather than constructing a new route. Chowning said the parkway will increase the economics in the area by $2.2 billion per year once completed, according to an economic study that was commissioned.
Guthrie, who is a state senator from Bowling Green, expressed his support of the project and that he will continue to work with all the counties working on the project.
He said a pending stimulus package in the United States Congress focusing on building infrastructure may be an appropriate place for the board to work with for additional funding.
“This project is important, and I look forward to making it work,” he said.
Dan Kelly, state senator and state senate majority leader from Springfield, Ky., said roads are a costly project especially in these economic times. He said the stimulus package might help, and he hopes revenues grow at the state government level.
“The road funds grow if people drive on roads,” he said. “If they don’t, it’s bad.”
Vernie McGaha, state senator from Russell Springs, said, “The Heartland Parkway is a win-win situation that will take a lot of cooperation.”
He looked over statistics from an economic impact study by Younger Associates and said travel had definitely increased in the area since statistics from the 1970s.
Jimmy Higdon, state representative from Lebanon, said, “We must work together to make it happen. We must pool our resources and increase our clout.”
Chowning shared a message of support from State Representative-Elect Bam Carney of Campbellsville, who was unable to attend.
Other officials also expressed their support of the project. Board of director members from Washington, Adair, Marion and Taylor counties were present for the meeting. The Board consists of the county judge-executives and county seat mayors from the four counties, the economic development directors of each county, representatives of the three higher education institutions (Lindsey Wilson College, Campbellsville University and St. Catharine College), two at-large members from each county, state senators and representatives from the region, representatives of the Lake Cumberland and Lincoln Trail Area Development Districts, and a few at-large members from around the state.
Representatives from the offices of Unites States Senators Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and Jim Bunning, D-Ky., and U.S. Congressmen Ed Whitfield, R-Ky, and U.S. Congressman Ron Lewis, also expressed support of the project. Jim Askins from Bunning’s office said, “The group of people here do things the right way. You’re on track.”
Chowning said the board of directors of the Heartland Parkway Foundation will serve as a leadership team to work with the federal and state governments and others who will study the feasibility, costs and funding of the project.
To get involved in the project, contact Chowning at (270) 789-5520.
Campbellsville University is a private, comprehensive institution located in South Central Kentucky. Founded in 1906, Campbellsville University is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and has an enrollment of 2,601 students who represent 93 Kentucky counties, 27 states and 31 foreign nations. Listed in U.S.News & World Report’s 2009 “America’s Best Colleges,” CU is ranked 22nd in “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the South for the second consecutive year. CU has been ranked 16 consecutive years with U.S.News & World Report. The university has also been named to America’s Best Christian Colleges®. Campbellsville University is located 82 miles southwest of Lexington, Ky., and 80 miles southeast of Louisville, Ky. Dr. Michael V. Carter is in his tenth year as president.