History of the Transcontinental Interstate 66 Proposal
The Interstate 66 East-West Trans America Freeway was an idea hatched by Wichita business people in the early 1990s as a means to bring more business to southern Kansas. They saw the business that Interstate 40 and Interstate 70 brought along their respective corridors, and they felt southern Kansas should have that kind of business too. Capitalizing on the fabled number "66," they determined that a new, coast-to-coast route would bring Kansas additional business. So the businessmen brought the idea to their politicians, and the politicians managed to get the idea listed as an ISTEA high priority corridor. Included with that congressional act was funding for a million dollar feasibility study.
Interstate 66 was planned to begin just west of Fresno, California, from a junction with Interstate 5. It was possible that Interstate 66 could begin further west, perhaps in Monterey or the Bay Area, but that's just speculation. Interstate 66 would head east through Fresno into the Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park areas. Its alignment would probably be along California 180. Then Interstate 66 would enter Death Valley National Park on its way to Las Vegas, probably via California 178 and Nevada 160. At Las Vegas, Interstate 66 would follow Interstate 15 to St. George, Utah, then it would loop back and forth across the Arizona-Utah and Colorado-New Mexico state lines through the several scenic areas and national parks along this corridor. Interstate 66 would then turn northward toward Pueblo and Colorado Springs, roughly following U.S. 160. Then Interstate 66 would probably follow either the routing of the newly defined U.S. 400 (U.S. 50, Kansas 154, U.S. 54, Kansas 96, etc.), the older U.S. 160, or somewhere in between through Colorado and Kansas.
Almost all of the western portion of this route (California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas) would require the construction of new freeway or upgrading the current road to freeway standards. Quite a bit of it would have been in environmentally sensitive areas. The extreme cost of this project, both economically and environmentally, would lead to the downfall of the westernmost segment of the Interstate 66 proposal.
East of Wichita, Interstate 66 would be easier to construct, because some portions of the route are already four-lane divided or freeway grade. Interstate 66 would meet Interstate 44 at Joplin, then head northeast to Springfield. Interstate 66 would continue east via an undefined route, but we'd speculate that U.S. 60 would be the top choice.
According to the Los Angeles Times article on this subject, Interstate 66 would enter southern Illinois via Paducah and Carbondale, then follow the Western Kentucky and Bluegrass Parkways northeast into Huntington, W.V. For some distance, Interstate 66 was planned to follow Interstate 64 in Kentucky.
Leaving Kentucky, the Los Angeles Times article has Interstate 66 heading east via U.S. 50 and Corridor H through southeastern Ohio and northern West Virginia to Strasburg. Corridor H is defined as running from Interstate 79 at Elkins, W.V., to Interstate 81 at Strasburg, Va. This project is under the gun from environmental groups due to the freeway's potential intrusion on pristine wilderness, so Corridor H may not be completed. The Interstate 64 and Interstate 81 corridor is obviously the cheapest and least intrusive. We are not sure what the actual plan was for Interstate 66 in this area, but it could be routed anywhere from Beckley to Strasburg.
After following the only section of Interstate 66 that actually exists, Interstate 66 would then end in Washington, D.C., where it ends now. Some speculate that Interstate 66 could continue east via U.S. 50 and 301 (Interstate 595) to serve Annapolis, Maryland; Ocean City, Maryland; and Dover, Delaware.
The million dollar feasibility study came back saying that Interstate 66 was not needed, as the current Interstate grid already handled the traffic needs well enough. Kansas got U.S. 400 instead after it was clear that they could not get federal funding and that a toll Interstate 66 would never pay for itself. Therefore, the extension of Interstate 66 west of Wichita was canned. In the eastern states, especially Kentucky, the Interstate 66 proposal is popular and eagerly anticipated by economically depressed communities.
Both the original Interstate 66 proposal and Trans America Corridor 3 are touted as transcontinental highways, but the similarities end there. There are significant differences in routing (throughout the West and in the vicinity of Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia) and in construction standards (it is unlikely that all of Corridor 3 will be constructed to Interstate standards, while Interstate 66 was originally planned as a six-lane, Interstate-grade highway). Now let's look at Corridor 3 on a state-by-state basis, followed by some information on Appalachian Redevelopment Commission's Corridor H (which is not part of High Priority Corridor 3).
In December 2001, President Bush signed into law a Transportation Department Appropriations Bill, which designated Corridor 3 as Interstate 66 in Kentucky. It remains to be seen how Interstate 66 in Kentucky will connect to other Interstates in Missouri and West Virginia.
Corridor 3 is slated to follow Corridor 16, which is Interstate 15 (between San Diego, California, and Mesquite, Nevada) and Interstate 40 (between Barstow, California, and the Arizona-New Mexico State Line). For more information on planned upgrades to this part of the Trans America Corridor, please see the Corridor 16 page.
The original Interstate 66 proposal (see above) was slated to cross California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. Since the feasibility study stated that this section of Interstate 66 would be prohibitively expensive, it is unlikely that it will be constructed any time soon. Therefore, the high priority corridor avoids this section of the Interstate 66 route. National Interstate 66 varies significantly from Trans America Corridor 3, which is shown on the map above.
The Trans America Corridor will follow Interstate 40 through most of New Mexico. Perhaps around Tucumcari, the corridor will turn northeast along U.S. 54 toward Texas.
U.S. 54/Spirit Corridor
A bill that was defeated was introduced in Congress (Senate Bill S1986) on March 5, 2002, would authorize the creation of a new High Priority Corridor: Corridor 45, the Southwest Passage Initiative for Regional and Interstate Transportation Corridor (SPIRIT), which is defined to follow U.S. 54 from El Paso, Texas, northeast to Wichita, Kansas. Portions of the New Mexico, Texas, and Kansas routing would overlap Corridor 3. As of November 2002, this bill has not been signed into law. The corridor's routing would be: "(45) The corridor extending from the point on the border between the United States and Mexico in the State of Texas at which United States Route 54 begins, along United States Route 54 through the States of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas, and ending in Wichita, Kansas, to be known as the `Southwest Passage Initiative for Regional and Interstate Transportation Corridor' or `SPIRIT Corridor.'" This bill did not pass.
Corridor 3 follows U.S. 54 throughout the northwestern corner of this state, connecting to the Ports-to-Plains Corridor 38 (potentially Interstate 27) and U.S. 87-385 at Dalhart.
Still following U.S. 54, the Trans America Corridor continues northeast toward Kansas, serving Guymon.
In Kansas, the approximate alignment of the Trans America Corridor follows U.S. 54 until its junction with U.S. 400 (former State Route 154) at Mullinville. The remainder of the corridor through the eastern two-thirds of Kansas was designated as U.S. 400 in 1995. U.S. 400 continues west along the original (1991) Interstate 66 course to its terminus at Granada, Colorado, while Corridor 3 turns southwest via U.S. 54 toward Interstate 40 via Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. U.S. 400 runs from U.S. 385 in Granada, Colorado, east to Interstate 44 southwest of Joplin, Missouri, across Kansas via U.S. 50, Former Kansas 154/U.S. 154, U.S. 54, Kansas 96, and U.S. 166. $400,000 was allocated to U.S. 54 in Kansas in Fiscal Year 2002.
Former Kansas 154
U.S. 400 replaced Kansas/U.S. 154 near Mullinville. When Jonathan Winkler passed through Mullinville in December 2000/January 2001, the K-154 shields were gone but the city of Mullinville still had street name signs reading "HWY K 154." This particular stretch of U.S. 400 is not part of Corridor 3, but it was considered as part of the originally proposed Interstate 66 corridor back in 1991.
Wichita: Kellogg Avenue
Through Wichita, as of January 2001, U.S. 54-400 (Kellogg Ave.) is still not a full freeway through Wichita. Current plans call for improvement to the Kellogg Avenue Freeway Corridor, which will continue to carry the U.S. 400 designation, while officials have announced their intention to re-route U.S. 54 via the Kansas 254 expressway north of town and the proposed Northwest Freeway.
According to Jonathan Winkler, the downtown flyover was finished in 1996 and the Dugan interchange at about the same time, so the route was stoplight-free between Tyler Road (just west of the airport) and Oliver Street (due north of the aircraft plants on the east side of town) by that time. (There was in fact a stoplight at Bluff, half a mile west of Oliver, where the old freeway constructed ca. 1979 ended, but Bluff was stopped up and the signal was removed at the very beginning of construction on Oliver.) In 1999, the city finished the Oliver Street interchange, pushing stop-and-go traffic east half a mile to Edgemoor.
The Wichita City Council has committed to building interchanges along U.S. 54-400 at Woodlawn (half a mile east of Edgemoor) and Rock Road (one mile east of Woodlawn), and I think land acquisition is ongoing; it's difficult because the area is one long strip of car dealerships on the south and the independent municipality of Eastborough (with lots of expensive country-style houses) comes down to the north side of the road. Just to get the Oliver Street interchange in place required Bob Dole, Kansas Senator until 1996, to add a line to a major highway bill (possibly it was the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995) directing the Veterans Administration to give the city of Wichita a large section of the lawn in front of their hospital on the northwest corner of Kellogg and Edgemoor, where the city proposed to locate the off-ramp for westbound Kellogg.
Beyond Rock Road the plan is less clear in terms of definite commitments to build, but the long-term goal is to extend full access control on Kellogg to the interchange with the Northeast Freeway (K-96) just east of 127th Street (itself two miles east of Rock Road). On the west side the city has committed to build an interchange at Tyler Road, and this wouldn't be too difficult as there are just hypermarts and down-at-heel businesses on all four corners, which keeps land acquisition costs down (Dugan was fairly easy for similar reasons).
Jonathan has heard no word about plans for Maize Road and 119th Street, however, although there is a considerable amount of new housing being built in that part of town and Maize and 119th are becoming important feeder roads for Kellogg. At this point, it seems that the city's Public Works Department prefers not to give itself ulcers thinking about those two intersections until Rock Road and the other intersections out east are sorted out and the results of a location study for a new Northwest Freeway (for which Wichita received System Enhancement funds from K.D.O.T.) are in. Although Maize has had a traffic light for years and 119th Street received one in the last decade, traffic is still light enough that the city seems to prefer to wait for a new freeway to decide a natural terminus for access control on Kellogg in the west, as the Northeast Freeway did in the east when it was completed in 1995.
Kansas 254/Future U.S. 54
According to the Wichita Eagle, Kansas DOT wishes to re-route U.S. 54 around Wichita on the proposed Northwest Freeway (expected to be built within ten years, and likely to connect with K-96 or I-235 at or a few miles west of their current junction), the north stretch of I-235, and K-254 for its entire length between the I-135/I-235 interchange near Kechi and the Turnpike at El Dorado. The new designation would probably meet existing U.S. 54 near Goddard in the west and in downtown El Dorado in the east. Existing double-designations with U.S. 400 between Goddard and Augusta, and U.S. 77 between Augusta and El Dorado, would vanish, as would the K-254 designation itself. So far no alignment has been announced for the Northwest Freeway, although Wichita last year received money for preliminary engineering under the System Enhancement program. (It was one of two urban bypass projects to receive System Enhancement funds; the other was a U.S. 54 bypass around Goddard which also received money only for preliminary engineering.)
The Northwest Freeway is currently unconstructed, but it will beginn at Kellogg Ave. (now U.S. 54-400) at 167th St. W. and then sweep up in a smooth curve to K-96 at Tyler. It would be ideal if Kellogg had mile interchanges between the westernmost existing interchange in Wichita (at the airport road) and the start of the Northwest Freeway. Jonathan Winkler mentions that this may be difficult, as the intersection with 119th St. W. is now signalized (it was controlled by stop signs on 119th St. W. as recently as 1992). He notes that development is moving fast, and if the City of Wichita doesn't option all the corner parcels at mile intersections on Kellogg A.S.A.P., this failure will initiate another painful process of allowing commercial development, then buying it at high (because value-added) prices and tearing it all down to build interchanges.
A map of the Northwest Freeway is available at the Wichita 2030 Improvements Plan web page.
U.S. 400 East of Wichita
East of Wichita, signs point to future expansion of the U.S. 400 corridor (where it overlaps Corridor 3 in eastern Kansas). Construction has already been completed on new sections of U.S. 400 east of Wichita, including several Super Two segments. A Super Two is a two-lane, freeway- or expressway-grade roadway. Normally, Super Two highways have full interchanges with no (or limited) passing lanes. Super Twos also have two lanes, no at-grade intersections, wide shoulders, and access controlled highways (no driveways) with some passing lanes. Construction of a Super Two is usually the first step taken in building a full freeway.
In addition to a Super Two around Independence, a U.S. 400 bypass around Fredonia has also been constructed. Highway crews also realigned U.S. 400 from around Augusta to Parsons in 1999. Initially, the most heavily traveled segment of the U.S. 400 route will be between Wichita and Interstate 44, since no east-west Interstate currently serves Wichita. It is possible that in several years, as traffic increases, U.S. 400 may become a full-blown freeway. The section of U.S. 400 around and through Wichita is already at full freeway standards, and it is likely that the freeway will be extended east and west from there.
Why U.S. 400?
The designation "U.S. 400" is likely a short-term "consolation prize" for Kansans who want a superhighway running along the southern tier of their state. I asked Kansan Dave Schul if he has any insight or information about U.S. 400 and whether he thinks U.S. 400 replaced the proposed Interstate 66 designation. Here's what he told me on September 6, 1997:
I don't know if U.S. 400 replaced Interstate 66. There may be a relationship, but the public affairs guy at KDOT did not know the answer. I asked him how they came up with the number for the road -- why 400, and not something like x54, x56, or x60, which would fit into the numbering system, and after he "checked with the people that would know that," all he could tell me was that 400 was not taken, so they took that. I don't think he ever noticed that there's a pattern to U.S. highway numbers. But I can tell you that U.S. 400 is being upgraded to at least "Super 2" status from Wichita east, so it may well be the consolation prize for Interstate 66.
U.S. 400 ends at its junction with Interstate 44. Since the legislation does not spell out where, specifically, Corridor 3 (Interstate 66) will go, we can speculate that the Trans America Corridor will follow U.S. 60 and/or U.S. 160 across the southern tier of Missouri. As communities and municipalities across Missouri decide whether they want the corridor running through their backyards, a more precise routing will be determined.
David Backlin writes on March 4, 2000, that it is likely that the Trans America corridor will follow U.S. 60 across the state of Missouri. There is now a U.S. 60 "Bypass" (James River Freeway) just east of Republic which runs from U.S. 60 to the junction of U.S. 60/65 southeast of Springfield. East of Springfield, U.S. 60 is almost totally four-lane, though there are still quite a few at-grade crossings. The freeway will eventually extend northwest to Interstate 44 as Missouri 360. The Missouri DOT web site says this will be open in the Summer 2003.
There is also work going on near Willow Springs on U.S. 60 with interchanges being constructed at Missouri State Route 137 and Missouri State Route 76. It would be difficult to upgrade U.S. 160 as the road is narrow, winding and steep in several areas east of Branson.
According to Chris Kelly writes that in addition to the improvements to the U.S. 60/63 bypass in Willow Springs, a new high-speed directional interchange will soon be under construction south of Willow Springs, where U.S. 60 and U.S. 63 split. Also, about 12 miles of U.S. 60 to the east of Van Buren are being replaced with new four-lane highway. Plans are also being made to four-lane all of U.S. 60 between Willow Springs and Poplar Bluff (preliminary designs for a Mountain View bypass are underway), as well as upgrade the route to interstate standards between Poplar Bluff and Sikeston. On a related note, U.S. 67 is seeing a good deal of upgrading across Southern Missouri. The Poplar Bluff Bypass opened this week, a short new 4-lane section near Fredricktown will soon be completed, and the highway is being upgraded to Interstate standards around Bonne Terre toward Farmington, with plans for more to come.
Interstate 66 has its designation written into law from Paducah to Pikeville in Kentucky, and future signage may be erected on eligible sections of the Cumberland (Louis Nunn) and Daniel Boone Parkways. This future designation was authorized in the December 2001 Transportation Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2002. $22.5 million was allocated to Interstate 66 in Fiscal Year 2002. The future routing of Interstate 66 is shown on the 2002 Official Kentucky State Map.
The current routing of the Trans America Corridor 3 (as spelled out in TEA-21, 1998) and the original Interstate 66 plan (see above) differ due to politics. The Interstate 66 corridor was originally planned to follow an existing freeway corridor via the Western Kentucky Parkway, Bluegrass Parkway, and Interstate 64. However, a rival corridor for Interstate 66 was established in economically depressed southern Kentucky. In the end, the route through the southern counties of Kentucky won, after a fierce political battle during the early 1990s. This bitter debate, between two key Kentucky politicians, raged for several years. Scotty Baesler (D-Lexington) and Harold Rogers (R-Somerset) fought a partisan battle over the routing and necessity of a second east-west Interstate through Kentucky.
Baesler wanted Interstate 66 (Trans America Corridor 3) to follow the Western Kentucky and Bluegrass Parkways, as listed in the LA Times article on Interstate 66. Rogers, on the other hand, wanted the corridor to blaze new trails, and follow an entirely new route away from Interstate 64. He wanted it to follow U.S. 68, the Cumberland Parkway, and the Daniel Boone Parkway across the economically depressed areas of southern-central and southeastern Kentucky. Ultimately, Rogers won out, with his Interstate 66 routing actually written into the Trans-America Corridor legislation. No other state along the corridor has a routing that specific.
According to H.B. Elkins, Interstate 66 would split from U.S. 60 in Charleston and head due east across the Mississippi River near New Madrid, Poplar Bluff, or Sikeston to enter Kentucky. He's heard no plans to route Interstate 66 into Illinois or Tennessee, so this has to be the crossing point. Interstate 66 would enter or serve the following cities in Kentucky from east to west: Pikeville, Jenkins, Hazard, London, and Somerset; then via the Louie B. Nunn (Cumberland) Parkway corridor from Somerset to Columbia, to Glasgow, to I-65; then to Bowling Green, Hopkinsville, Benton, and Paducah. It would probably follow Interstate 24 from Paducah to U.S. 68 and Kentucky SR-80. Interstate 66 would take the Cumberland Parkway and the Daniel Boone Parkway east to Hazard. Then it will swing south and exit Kentucky in Pike County. Somehow the route would have to turn north through Beckley to meet the current Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia.
In a May 18, 1999, article in the Lexington Herald-Leader, "Appalachian
transportation blasted: Conference had to be held outside region," politicians complained about the poor economic conditions of Appalachia. The article specifically mentioned the economic benefits of proposed Interstate 66, which "would cut through the heart of some of the poorest counties in Appalachia, in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. ... That would take Appalachia off the back porch of the nation and put it on the front porch." The article goes on to state that Interstate 66 would be a transcontinental highway, and would run on existing parkways in western and central Kentucky. But the state needs money to build a limited-access Interstate east from Somerset and into the mountains. "If it is built, (Rep. Harold) Rogers predicted, Interstate 66 would be 'the Main Street of Appalachia.'"
According to Lexington Herald-Leader, in Southern Kentucky, $15 million was appropriated in TEA-21 to pay for preliminary engineering work and environmental studies for the "long-planned" Interstate 66 corridor. The work would begin between the Cumberland Parkway in Somerset and the Daniel Boone Parkway at Interstate 75.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's six-year plan (as of 1999) includes the following items for Interstate 66/Trans America Corridor:
- In Fiscal Year 1999, $500,000 for a scoping study to "locate Interstate 66 routing from the Cumberland Parkway at Somerset via Interstate 75 South of London to the Daniel Boone Parkway." This relates to the TEA item KY033 #907 for $1,687,500 to "construct a segment of the Interstate 66 corridor from Somerset to Interstate 75."
- In Fiscal Year 2000, $500,000 for a scoping study to "evaluate options for locating Interstate 66... from Hazard to West Virginia State line." Scott Dennis writes that there really are not many options here, especially considering the language Harold Rogers got inserted in the legislation that specifies so many towns along the way.
- In Fiscal Year 2002, $500,000 for a strategic corridor study from "Missouri state line to Interstate 24 at Paducah; (to) evaluate options for location of Interstate 66 in this region of Kentucky." (This language implies that Interstate 66 will not enter Illinois or Cape Girardeau. Instead, it will probably cross a new Mississippi River Bridge between Kentucky and Missouri.)
Kentucky is also pushing for federal support and funding for its portion of Interstate 66. Published Tuesday, May 18, 1999, in the Herald-Leader (U.S. transit chief hears Interstate 66 proposal), U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said competition for federal funding was very stiff and he made no promises about the proposed Interstate 66, which would cut across Kentucky. "U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater didn't make any promises about the proposed Interstate 66 during his visit to Lexington. His department will award $140 million in discretionary road funds later this month, but must choose from $2 billion worth of projects and the competition is 'very stiff,' said Slater, who was in town to speak at an Appalachian transportation summit.
"The federal government will spend $2.2 billion on Appalachian transportation needs over the next five years, officials said. But Gov. Paul Patton wants an additional $17 million to begin designing and planning a stretch of Interstate 66 in southeastern Kentucky. The funding would be 'the first step' toward a Virginia-to-California Interstate that would cut across Kentucky. Although the route, cost and timetable are uncertain, Patton envisions a highway that would travel along the spine of Appalachia, through his native Pike County. A 1997 study estimated the 420-mile stretch of Interstate in Kentucky would cost $5 billion. But Patton said the $17 million is a first step.
"U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers also endorsed the proposal, saying such a road would fuel economic development and job growth across Appalachia. The Interstate 66 corridor is expensive, ambitious and necessary Rogers said, predicting, Slater indicated a willingness to work with Patton and Rogers on the project, but offered few specifics. 'The state has put in a strong application and we're going to give it the most positive consideration possible,' he said. Slater's visit to Kentucky included delivering the keynote speech at the summit, a two-day conference focusing on using rail, air, barge and highways to improve the area's economy. Organizers say it is the first conference of its type in Appalachia."
It will be interesting to see how much federal funding will be applied to the Interstate 66/Trans America Corridor; it will determine whether it will be constructed within the next 20 years or in another half century.
Interstate 66 is planned to be routed via the Cumberland Parkway and the Daniel Boone Parkway in southern Kentucky. The Cumberland Parkway is already Interstate compatible. All that will be required is eliminating the cloverleaf interchanges at the toll booths at the U.S. 127 and U.S. 68 exits. At these interchanges, only the cloverleaf ramps exist, not the diamond ramps that you would find at normal cloverleaf interchanges, so all traffic entering or exiting the parkway must pass through the toll booth underneath the overpass. The Daniel Boone Parkway is a Super Two with passing lanes on the hills. It will take extensive reconstruction to become Interstate compatible. Currently, there is no freeway connector between the Cumberland and Daniel Boone Parkways. The following map shows the proposed Interstate 66 connectors with the 1999 lowest cost route shown in red.
All seven alignments of proposed Interstate 66 in southeastern Kentucky begin at the Cumberland Parkway and end at the Daniel Boone Parkway. Two take a northern path, while one makes a straight line between Somerset and London through the Daniel Boone National Forest. The other four routes -- including the preferred one -- take a southern path and pass by Laurel River Lake. Source: Herald-Leader
On June 15, 1999, the southernmost Interstate 66 alignment was recommended in a planning study between Somerset and London. This linkage between the Cumberland and Daniel Boone Parkways would cost more than $1 billion and be built near Laurel River Lake in hopes of boosting tourism and development. The suggested southern route would cost more than $100 million to design, nearly $690 million to build, and $210 million to purchase rights-of-way and moving lines for power, water, gas, and telephone. The route, one of seven options compared in a $500,000 study by Wilbur Smith Associates, is 44.5 miles long. It would begin west of Somerset at the Cumberland Parkway, head north of Somerset, then south to Laurel River Lake and connect to the Daniel Boone Parkway southeast of London.
The preferred route is one of the longer and more expensive choices, planners said the potential economic benefits made it the most attractive. The alternatives vary in length from 38.6 miles to 48.4 miles, and their estimated costs are between $891 million and $1.11 billion. The preferred route has the lowest per-mile cost, at $22.5 million, although it is the third-most expensive overall. Planners suggest it will take 20 years to build the connector between the two parkways, making 2019 the estimated completion date for this section of Interstate 66. (Source: "Southerly Interstate 66 route recommended: Parkways' link to boost development," by Lance Williams, Tuesday, June 15, 1999, in the Herald-Leader.)
The planners said the recommended option, a four-lane Interstate, would cut the driving time between Somerset and London by nine minutes and 13 seconds and would be 1.74 miles shorter than Kentucky 80, which is now the most popular route between Somerset and London. Some of the other routes would save more time and mileage than the favored southern route. But planners steered away from one option because it would have been too far from recreational areas. They avoided both northern routes because of the potential impact on the Rockcastle River.
East of Interstate 75, the Interstate 66 corridor is proposed to follow the Daniel Boone Parkway, west of Exit 56. It will run southeast, crossing Kentucky State Route 80, then will turn northeast. It will cross Kentucky State Route 7 and Kentucky State Route 15 near Jeff, run to the north of Carr Fork Lake, cross Kentucky State Route 160 near the intersection of Kentucky State Route 899, run to the south of Pippa Passes, cross Kentucky State Route 7 near Kite, pass near Wheelwright, cross U.S. 23/119 south of U.S. 460/Kentucky State Route 80 at Shelbiana, cross US 460/Kentucky State Route 80 near the Fishtrap Lake dam, then turn nearly due north before resuming a northeasterly direction. It will cross Kentucky State Route 194 and Kentucky State Route 632 near Kimper, Kentucky State Route 199 near McVeigh, then cross into West Virginia between Matewan and Edgarton. It is to end at the proposed King Coal Highway (Interstate 73/74) in West Virginia.
Meanwhile, the federal government awarded the state more than $4.5 million in May 1999 to begin planning for a 30-mile section of Interstate 66 through Pike County. That road would link U.S. 23 near Robinson Creek in Pike County to another proposed highway, Interstates 73-74, south of Williamson, W.Va. That segment could cost an estimated $700 million.
A University of Kentucky Transportation Center study of the Interstate 66 Corridor suggested that Kentucky's portion of Interstate 66 from Paducah to Pikeville could increase employment along the Interstate by as much as eight percent over 20 years. In addition, researchers said, personal earnings in the area could rise by $2 billion a year. This study suggests that the economic benefits of the Interstate would be significant for Kentucky, even if a national Interstate 66 corridor is not constructed.
For more information and maps, go to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Interstate 66 Web Page.
In West Virginia, the corridor will connect to and possibly merge with the Interstate 73/74 Corridor and the Coalfields Expressway Corridor (potential U.S. 121). See the high priority corridor map for more detail. The legislation specifically mentions that the corridor will serve the West Virginia communities of Welch and Beckley.
The Trans America Corridor will probably follow U.S. 52 (Interstate 73/74) east, then take U.S. 19 north to Beckley. The corridor may take Interstate 64 east to Covington, then head south via U.S. 220 to Roanoke. The corridor will parallel Interstate 73, which will take U.S. 460 through southern West Virginia and western Virginia. At Roanoke, the Trans America Corridor will turn due east again, heading for Lynchburg and Hampton Roads via U.S. 460, while Interstate 73 will turn south along U.S. 220 toward North Carolina.
Interstate 66, as originally proposed, was supposed to turn northeast in West Virginia to connect to the already-existing Interstate 66 in northern Virginia. Although construction of a freeway to connect existing Interstate 66 in northern Virginia with proposed Interstate 66 in eastern Kentucky may still be planned (perhaps as part of ARC Corridor H), Trans America Corridor 3 continues due east along U.S. 460 to Hampton Roads. Any connection between the two sections of Interstate 66, including upgrades to U.S. 119 and ARC Corridor H, are not part of the High Priority Corridor.
The Trans America Corridor enters Virginia, specifically serving Covington, the Allegheny Highlands, Roanoke, Lynchburg, and the Hampton Roads. At Roanoke, the corridor will meet Interstate 73 (Corridor 5) again. The corridor description in TEA-21 does not mention Front Royal, Strasburg, or Washington, D.C., which shows that this corridor is not the same as the original Interstate 66 proposal. VDOT indicates that Corridor 3 in Virginia consists of Interstate 64 from Beckley, W. Va. to Clifton Forge, Va.; U.S. 220 from Clifton Forge to Roanoke, Va.; and U.S. 460 from Roanoke to Hampton Roads.
One of the appropriations listed in TEA-21 is $500,000 to "conduct feasibility study for the construction of Interstate 66 from Lynchburg to the West Virginia border." Note that the language here refers to Interstate 66 and not Corridor 3. The trouble is, Interstate 66 already ends in Strasburg, not Lynchburg, and it is located several miles to the north. Perhaps the plan is to redesignate Interstate 66 along the specific definition of Corridor 3 (which comes no where near Washington, D.C.). Scott Dennis writes, "the Virginia Highway Department's web page does mention funding for studying Interstate 66 from 'Lynchburg' to West Virginia. That seems to be the intent of Congress critters who are, to be charitable, fairly ignorant about highway numbers." More information is available at the TransAmerica Corridor in Virginia (U.S. 460) web page available from VDOT. The page indicates that the $500,000 study has been completed.
The National Highway System map of 1995 lists U.S. 460 across central Virginia as a high priority corridor. Bruce Harper points out, U.S. 460 works in the context of "Interstate" highway, in that it is a four-lane highway, some of it limited access, with bypasses around most major cities and towns, with the exception of Roanoke.
U.S. 48 and ARC Corridor H
Corridor H/Future U.S. 48 is the under-construction route between Elkins and Front Royal. This route provides a direct link between Interstate 79 and Interstate 66, and it may ultimately provide a connection between the proposed Interstate 66 in Kentucky with the actual Interstate 66 in Virginia. Additional information is available on Corridor H at the official West Virginia Department of Transportation site.
Appalachian Regional Commission Highway Development Corridor H, shown as a dotted line on the 1994-1996 West Virginia Highway Map and labeled as "U.S. 33," is supposed to run from Elkins, West Virginia, to Front Royal, Virginia. However, the 1997-1998 map does not show U.S. 33 routed along Corridor H. Future maps will likely refer to this route as U.S. 48. The October 8, 1997, Boston Globe has a front page article on this corridor, derided Corridor H as the "Robert C. Byrd Road to Nowhere" in the article.
Senator Byrd, a hero to West Virginia for the billions of dollars in highway projects he has helped fund, got a billion dollars for the 114-mile Corridor H. The problem is that the state of Virginia isn't going to build their part of the road. No problem, some say, the road will stop at the border. But there isn't much there. If the project is built there will be four lanes from Elkins (pop. 7,000), through Montrose to Wardensville (pop. 140) at the edge of the Washington National Forest.
In West Virginia there is some public opposition to this project, but the promise of a billion dollars in a depressed region has put the government fully behind it. A court recently lifted the injunction placed against this road's construction, indicating that construction will soon begin. Also, plans are to connect Corridor H with the Interstate 99/U.S. 220 Corridor.
The two-lane road that this highway would replace has a high accident rate. Some would rather improve the existing road. However, there is no mention of traffic volume statistics in the article. Instead, the article uses a picture to sum up the writer's position: The article is accompanied by a picture of a dirt road passing through a field with a farm in the distance. That is the planned end of Corridor H -- unless Virginia picks up its end of Corridor H all the way to the Interstate 81/Interstate 66 junction.
In May 1998, West Virginia DOT requested that AASHTO designate Corridor H (from Interstate 79 at Weston, W.Va., to Interstate 81 at Strasburg, Va.) as U.S. 48 once the highway is constructed (whether it is to freeway or multi-lane divided expressway standards). West Virginia DOT launched this proposal concurrently with the proposal to number the Coalfields Expressway as U.S. 121. Virginia's DOT has already agreed to both U.S. highway numbers, and AASHTO ultimately approved both designations. In April 2003, U.S. 48 shields were placed along Virginia 55 from Interstate 81 Exit 296 west to the West Virginia state line. However, U.S. 48 is currently not signed in West Virginia.
Says West Virginia Highway Commissioner Sam Beverage, "AASHTO's Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering will not approve the use of these two numbers until we are ready to place them on highways that are actually in existence. It could be that when that time comes, we will have to choose other available numbers." U.S. 48 been used on two other historical routings: (1) Interstate 580 and Interstate 205 from Hayward to Stockton, California, and (2) Interstate 68 from Interstate 79 in West Virginia to Interstate 70 in Hancock, Maryland.
For more, see Sherman Cahal's U.S. 48/Corridor H page.
Extending Interstate 66 East to Annapolis and Beyond
According to John Taber, there are proposals on file in Maryland and Delaware for long range planning that would extend the Interstate 66 designation over U.S. 50/301, also known as hidden Interstate 595 east to Dover, Delaware. At that point, Interstate 66 would hook up with the Delaware Relief Route, which has no Interstate designation but was referred to as Interstate 101 in a Roads and Bridges article.
Page Updated July 31, 2005.