Kentucky reportedly has more miles of freeways outside the Interstate system than any other U.S. state except California. This is a list of Kentucky's 9 state parkways - 7 of which are entirely freeways of at least 4 lanes, with part of another parkway also being a 4-lane freeway. (In other words, most are almost up to Interstate standards, though a few may not qualify for reasons like the median being too high.) All 9 parkways were once toll. The bonds used to pay for building the parkways were gradually paid off, causing the tollbooths to be closed one parkway at a time. This process was finally completed in 2006, and all 9 parkways are now free of cost to travelers.
State parkways carry unsigned, "secret" route numbers in the 9000s.
For several parkways, we have our own clever names, which are listed here.
Begin: Edward T Breathitt Pennyrile Pkwy, Henderson
End: US 60, 1.1 mi W of Owensboro city line
• Henderson 15.883
• Daviess 7.558
Major bridges: Green River, Henderson Co-Daviess Co
Companion surface roads: US 60
Likely the most seldom traveled parkway, the Audubon opened in December 1970. Although I-69 isn't even done, Owensboro officials have already petitioned to have the Audubon numbered as I-369. The Audubon had its tolls removed in 2006.
BERT T. COMBS MOUNTAIN PARKWAY (KY 9000)
Begin: I-64, .8 mi NE of Winchester city line
End: .408 mi E of Spur KY 15, 1.2 mi NW of Campton city line (bec KY 9009)
• Clark 11.913
• Powell 24.087
• Wolfe 6.853
Cities: Clay City, Stanton
Companion surface roads: KY 15
Our name: The Bert
BERT T. COMBS MOUNTAIN PARKWAY EXTENSION (KY 9009)
Begin: .408 mi E of Spur KY 15, 1.2 mi NW of Campton city line (bec KY 9000)
End: US 460 & KY 3048, Salyersville
• Wolfe 14.867
• Morgan 5.403
• Magoffin 12.543
Companion surface roads: KY 191, KY 134, US 460
Our name: The Bert
The Bert totals 75.666 miles. However, at mile 42.853 - 0.408 mile east of Spur KY 15 near Campton - the Bert changes from 4-lane to 2-lane and the "secret" designation changes from KY 9000 to KY 9009. The 2-lane part is actually monikered the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway Extension.
The Bert was known as just the Mountain Parkway before being named for Bert T. Combs in 1976. This parkway is labeled KY 402 on some commercial maps, but I never saw it signed as KY 402. In fact, it was "secret" KY 9000 and 9009 before being renumbered KY 114 in April 1985, then KY 402 in August 1985, and then KY 9000 and 9009 again in 1990. The only spot I know of on the official county maps where the Bert was marked as KY 402 was the inset for the village of Slade ("Run runaway, run runaway..."), where you have to get off at the KY 11 exit to use the rest area.
The Bert opened in 1963 and was a toll road until the mid-1980s. It is a 4-lane freeway from Winchester to near Campton, and the 2-lane section to Salyersville is also limited access. Some old maps show a proposed Mountain Parkway splitting up near Campton with 2 legs going to Pikeville and Whitesburg.
Recent plans call for extending this parkway to Prestonsburg, making the entire road 4 lanes, and reinstating tolls to pay for it.
Begin: I-24, 4.8 mi SW of Hopkinsville city line
End: US 41, Henderson
• Christian 28.095
• Hopkins 26.908
• Webster 10.302
• Henderson 13.001
Cities: Hopkinsville, Nortonville, Mortons Gap, Madisonville, Hanson, Robards, Henderson
Companion surface roads: US 41A, US 41
Our name: The Steady Neddy (from Ned Flanders of The Simpsons)
The Pennyrile Parkway opened in 1969 and lost its tolls in 1992. The road was renamed for a popular former governor in 2000. For years, mile numbers on the Steady Neddy started at 7, for there were 7 more miles proposed to link to I-24 but not yet built. At the time, the road started at US 41A. In 2008, it was finally extended to Byp US 68. It was completed to I-24 in 2011.
Begin: US 25 & KY 80, London
End: KY 15 & 80, Hazard
• Laurel 10.593
• Clay 25.336
• Leslie 15.097
• Perry 8.062
Cities: London, Manchester, Hazard
Companion surface roads: KY 80
This was formerly the Daniel Boone Parkway, which opened in 1971. Most of the road is only 2 lanes and thus is not up to Interstate standards. Though most of this parkway is a 2-lane freeway, the part that runs along the north side of London is not a freeway. Even along the freeway section of the parkway, there are at least 2 at-grade junctions (not counting several near the Hazard end). In 2003 the Daniel Boone had its tolls removed. Later that terrible year it was renamed for Hal Rogers - replacing the name of a frontiersman who helped settle Kentucky with that of a sitting right-wing congressperson. The renaming generated a firestorm of complaints.
Begin: TN state line, .2 mi W of Fulton city line (bec US 51)
End: US 62 & KY 1523, Calvert City
• Fulton 3.434
• Hickman 4.918
• Graves 26.135
• Marshall 17.846
Cities: Fulton, Mayfield, Benton, Calvert City
Companion surface roads: US 45, KY 58, US 641
The Purchase Parkway, in the extreme western part of the state, opened in 1966 and had its tolls removed in 1992. For some reason it was later officially referred to as the Jackson Purchase Parkway. In 2001 it was renamed for former Gov. Julian Carroll. (And then it really got pooped upon. Sorry, folks, that's an inside joke!)
But Julian Carroll had a mullet.
Begin: I-65, 5.4 mi N of Merry Oaks
End: US 27, 1.3 mi N of Somerset city line
• Barren 22.357
• Metcalfe 13.802
• Adair 21.632
• Russell 14.296
• Pulaski 16.289
Cities: Glasgow, Columbia, Russell Sprs
Companion surface roads: KY 80
Our name: The Nickel Louie (from Nunn's raise of the sales tax to 5%)
The Cumberland Parkway was mostly open in 1972; the rest opened in 1973. It was renamed for Louie B. Nunn in 2000. So despised is the GOP that Nickel Louie was the last Republican governor of Kentucky before Ernie "Hey Bert" Fletcher 32 years after Nunn left office. Gee, it must be hard for the Repub-a-dubs when reality beans them right on their misshapen noggins! The toll was removed in 2003.
Though the Nickel Louie is now all freeway, at one time it effectively became a divided surface road for a mile at its Somerset end. But now it's been rerouted onto a new freeway stretch north of town.
Begin: I-65, Elizabethtown
End: US 60, .9 mi W of Gaybourn
• Hardin 8.837
• Nelson 30.43
• Washington 5.54
• Anderson 7.508
• Mercer 3.972
• Anderson 5.66
• Woodford 9.187
Cities: Elizabethtown, Bardstown
Companion surface roads: US 62
The 1980s plan to extend I-66 into Kentucky would have involved the Blue Grass Parkway, which opened in 1965 and lost its tollbooths in 1991. The I-66 proposal was later moved to the southern part of Kentucky instead. The Blue Grass Parkway was named for Collins, a former governor, in 2003.
Begin: Edward T Breathitt Pkwy, 1.4 mi NE of Nortonville city line (bec I-69)
End: US 31W & KY 61, Elizabethtown
• Hopkins 5.098
• Muhlenberg 22.251
• Ohio 21.869
• Butler .889
• Grayson 31.216
• Hardin 17.147
Cities: Central City, Rockport, Leitchfield, Elizabethtown
Major bridges: Green River, Muhlenberg Co-Ohio Co
Companion surface roads: US 62
Our name: Mr. Wendell (from the song "Mr. Wendal" by Arrested Development)
This route went all the way to I-24 until 2011 when the part from I-24 to the Breathitt became I-69. Part of a good alternate route between Memphis and Louisville, the Western Kentucky Parkway mostly opened in 1963 and had the tolls removed in 1987. If there was only one road in Kentucky that should have had the speed limit raised above 65 MPH and been given an Interstate number, the WK was a good candidate: The road is flat and wide and with little traffic but is important enough to be an Interstate. (Kentucky raised the state speed limit to 70 MPH in 2007.) Barring the extension of I-66 or 69, this could have easily been, say, I-58. In 1998 the WK was renamed for the popular Democratic senator. Part of this road near its Eddyville end that opened in 1968 was once the "secret" KY 9010.
Begin: US 231, .6 mi SE of Bowling Green city line
End: US 60, .5 mi NW of Owensboro city line
• Warren 20.246
• Butler 16.897
• Ohio 24.41
• Daviess 10.711
Cities: Bowling Green, Morgantown, Hartford, Owensboro
Major bridges: Green River, Butler Co
Companion surface roads: US 231
Formerly the Green River Parkway, which opened in 1972, this highway was renamed for the late Democratic congressman in 1994. It includes what is probably the longest stretch between exits on any Kentucky highway: 23 miles between Hartford and Owensboro. (I assume no new exits have been built on that stretch recently.) This parkway finally had the tolls removed in 2006. It was extended from I-65 south to US 231 in 2012.
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