Commonwealth Journal

September 16, 2010

New Pulaski roads proving confusing


Somerset — If you haven’t taken a wrong turn on Pulaski County’s recently opened network of new highways, you’re definitely in the minority. Braggarts around coffee shops saying driving on the new roads is a piece of cake are branded as smart aleck city slickers.

A section of Interstate 66 north of Somerset as well as the western end of Ky. 914 opened late last week. Based on the current mood of the populace, one new highway is aplenty. Two may be too much.

Possum Trot, the placid peaceful place called Pleasant Hill, is so wrapped in winding interstate ramps that from a bird’s eye it looks like a bowl of spaghetti. If possums do trot in Possum Trot, the nocturnal creatures will find a darker den away from glaring interchange lights.

Congressman Hal Rogers, daddy of the slice of interstate, calls it I-66. Locals refer to it as the northern bypass. Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler, gritting his teeth, tags it “R & R” –– without rhyme or reason. The Highway Department, agency with the last word, says the name of the realigned section of the parkway will remain the same –– Louie B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway.

What ever? The new roads have terribly confused folks. Local drivers –– even those with a license –- can’t find their way. An undocumented rumor making the rounds hints of lost motorists living beneath a bridge; they can’t find their way home.

No one can deny that Pulaski County has the finest highway system of any rural county in Kentucky. Opening of the realigned Cumberland Parkway and western end of the southwestern bypass completed nearly $200 million worth of new roads built during the last decade. We hardly know how to drive on a two-lane highway.

The only downside to that is the fact that mountain folks –– Pulaski County lies in the foothills of the Cumberlands –– don’t cater to change.

When it comes to roads, we’re like cattle in a pasture. We walk to the barn on the same path. The only new blacktop we want to see is some accommodating officeholder applying a generous coating to our driveway.

Tongue in cheek aside, Pulaski countians should be thankful for the best-maintained highways in Kentucky. Drive in many sections of Kentucky, specifically around Elizabeth-town and west toward  Paducah, or I-75 south toward Knoxville, and the road surfaces will jar your teeth out.

The men and women in the Highway Department’s District 8 do a masterful job. They are fully aware that most people resist change. They know, and we know, that once we get used to the magnificent system of highways, we’ll be proud as punch.