FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – On Monday the Finance and Administration Cabinet announced the Whitley County Welcome Center, built in 1971 and located at the 1.5 mile marker on I-75 in southern Kentucky, is closing Oct. 4 for demolition and reconstruction with the new facility expected to be completed in fall 2020.
They say upwards of 30,000 vehicles per day pass by this welcome center, which is considered to be in the most deteriorated condition of all Kentucky’s welcome centers.
The facility frequently is closed to the public for maintenance and repairs whose costs have continued to escalate over the years.
“This aging facility is not the impression we want people to have of Kentucky,” said William M. Landrum III, secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet. “This welcome center at the state line sees hundreds of visitors per day. Having a clean, safe and accessible center is much more welcoming than one always in disrepair.”
Rebuilding the center will bring it into ADA compliance, increase safety features, add more bathrooms, and improve vending amenities.
Also, high mast lighting for ramps and parking areas will be added as well as more truck parking allowing drivers to rest in a safe location instead of on ramps or shoulders.
“Welcome centers and rest areas are important safe havens for road-weary travelers and make an impression to visitors about our state,” said Greg Thomas, secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. “Funding the brand new facility will offer more truck parking and new amenities to better serve the public and staff.”
The new Whitley County center will be similar to the welcome center in Shelby County on I-64.
There will be horse statues, fences, and better signage outside.
Numerous TV screens inside will show videos and display information about many of Kentucky’s tourist attractions and beautiful natural scenery.
Currently, employees with the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet staff the Whitley County welcome center.
These employees will work in other area Tourism facilities while construction is underway.
D.W. Wilburn of Lexington has been awarded the design-build contract for this nearly $5 million project, which will be funded with 80% federal funds and a 20% state match. Federal Transportation Enhancement (TE) funding can be used for reconstruction/construction of tourist welcome centers, not standard rest areas.
During construction, commercial trucks will be allowed to park and access limited portable toilets. Digital signs will advise the general public of the closure, as well as indicate limited access for trucks.
The closest interstate exit with restaurants, gas stations and other amenities is Williamsburg at Exit 11.
The closest welcome center is the Kentucky Artisan Welcome Center in Berea at Exit 77.