I would like to state my strong opposition to the proposed I-66 in KY. Way back when, there was some talk by the US Government about having an interstate run from Fresno, CA to Washington, D.C. A $1 million Congressional feasibility study determined that Interstate 66 was not needed; the current interstate traffic grid already handled traffic needs sufficiently and it was not economically feasible because the highway construction costs exceeded the travel benefits. But thanks to the politicians in Frankfort, who may or may not have any special interest in seeing our tax dollars go to this road (I suspect the former), and who managed to sneak in Congressional approval for the KY segment; our tax dollars ($22.5 million in FY 2002) have been appropriated for this road from Paducah to Pikeville.
Officials say that $2.2 billion is to be spent on Appalachian transportation needs over the next five years, but the proposed Route 66 is estimated to cost a huge $5 billion (or more) for the 420 mile stretch of road. Now I’m no great mathematician, but that averages out to be a WHOPPING $12 million dollars (or more) per mile! Just the 43 mile stretch from Somerset to London alone is estimated to average $22 million/mile. Our illustrious leaders say that this road is needed, that it would bring Appalachia to the “front porch” of the nation. They go on to predict great economic benefits, increasing employment and earnings to the region. It may attract some businesses, are there any assurances from our leaders? If a few more gas stations and fast food places are built, will that benefit the local economy or just take business awayfrom existing ones?
People currently traveling along other roads may take the new interstate, causing devastating losses to existing businesses along other roads and further contributing to unemployment and the blight and sprawl that is already so visible here. The money that is going to this new road is taking away from funds available for repairing/upgrading existing roads. Many people traveling along Route 80 & 75 agree with me that the state could better use some of that money to fix existing roads. In short, the money spent for this “Road to Nowhere” will not bring any rewards to us KY citizens.
How will the “Poor Appalachia” communities described by the politicians benefit in any way? Consultants, land speculators and big contractors will make money, but I don’t believe it will benefit the average citizen. If the segment from Somerset to London is built through the Daniel Boone National Forest (our property, this land that belongs to all of us Americans), reports predict that it will cut the travel time from Somerset to London by about nine minutes (averaging 70 mph) and would be less than two miles shorter than the current Route 80. BUT, the report fails to mention that this limited access highway would only be accessible in certain locations, you will probably end up driving miles out of your way to get onto it. And you may well have to pay a toll. People NOT using the road may need to go around the highway, increasing their travel time. So exactly where are these savings? People who don’t own cars and people who do not drive highway speeds, like our senior citizens will certainly not benefit.
What about the costs associated with the deforestation of the Daniel Boone National Forest? Or the risks involved in building atop the topography of this cave and karst abundant region? Who will pay for the probable contamination to our drinking water from the asphalt and runoff of pollutants? Other losses which, to me, are priceless are loss of the natural forest, endangered species, recreational areas, and degradation of the environment caused by the increase in noise and air pollution.
Another argument has been made that the money has been appropriated for this road and if it is not used for this purpose, it must be given back to the Federal Government. During these dark days in our nation’s history, I personally would rather see this extra money going to fighting the War on Terrorism, educating our children, taking care of our Senior Citizens and our Men and Women in the Military than building a road. Just imagine what a few extra billion dollars of our tax money could do to help areas with much higher priorities than this Interstate.
I call this area home because of its natural unspoiled beauty. I love the Daniel Boone National Forest, Cane Creek WMA, Laurel Lake, Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park, Cumberland Falls and the other local recreational areas. I am quite happy to travel Route 80, 75 & 25 to get where I need to go between Somerset, London & Corbin (a route which I travel daily). I just don’t think tourists will be any more drawn to the State Parks & Resorts just because of this new road. They’ll be whizzing through here at 70 mph and might blink and miss the signs! Why not just increase advertising dollars, it would be much less costly and more effective. If the traffic increases will happen in the next 25 years, as predicted, let’s improve existing KY roads! Many people are attracted to this area for the beautiful and scenic natural environment, NOT the sprawl and the new super-highway.
In my opinion, “Industrial Development” ought to be renamed “Industrial Redevelopment” and attract existing and new businesses to the already developed vacant properties, rather than building new ones. Once the forest is bulldozed and paved, it can’t be brought back. Likewise, the existing roads in this state are perfectly adequate for getting from one side of the state to the other. So I ask you, my neighbors, do you want further sprawl or do you want to use/improve what is already here? Its time to STOP THE INSANITY! Caring citizens must stand up to “City Hall” and to those who stand to profit from this multi-billion dollar blunder. Voice your opinion! Maybe you, like me, care deeply but weren’t able to attend any of the public meetings and never saw a petition. Please visit http://www.kick66.org for more information and to voice your opinion which will be shared with the officials involved. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mail your comments to: P.O. Box 1133, London, KY 40743. Or write a letter to the politicians or the Editor of your local paper. I urge you to make your voice be heard!
Sources: Southern KY Corridor I-66: Is it Economically Justified by Karyn Moskowitz, MBA