$34 million project will cut Hazard to Pikeville drive time by 45 minutes

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LANGLEY, Ky. (WTVQ) – In keeping with his pledge to complete major infrastructure projects throughout the commonwealth, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday a $34 million road project that will complete the last section of a long-awaited connector highway between the communities of Minnie and Harold.

Completing the remaining 2.89 miles of the 14.89-mile Minnie to Harold connector, Kentucky Highway 680, will cut Hazard to Pikeville drive time by about 45 minutes by providing a direct route between two of the most heavily traveled roads in Eastern Kentucky: Kentucky Highway 80 at Minnie to U.S. Highway 23 at Harold.

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The project began in 1991.

“We are ready for work to begin to improve the quality of life and increase opportunities in Eastern Kentucky,” said Beshear, who presented a ceremonial check for the project in the amount of Bizzack Construction Co.’s low bid of $34,108,260.80.

“The people of Floyd County, and surrounding communities, have been waiting a long time for completion of the Minnie to Harold connector, and I am proud to say the end finally is in sight.”

Rocky Adkins, senior advisor to Beshear and longtime state representative from Eastern Kentucky, recognized the vast need for the highway completion in the region.

“A promise made 30 years ago to finish the Minnie to Harold Connector is finally being kept by Gov. Beshear,” said Adkins. “This highway will help bring Kentuckians together, it will open more opportunities for our people and it will make it easier to travel through Eastern Kentucky, showing more visitors all this region has to offer.”

“The project, known as the 680 Connector, will do just what it says: it will help to connect Eastern Kentucky communities between Hazard and Pikeville. This project began over 30 years ago. For years, the last leg has remained unfinished, leaving a three mile hole in the center of the shovel ready road,” said state Rep. Ashley Tackett Laferty, who represents Floyd and Pike counties. “I was thankful that this long awaited roadway was listed on our current road plan to be constructed, and we are excited to celebrate the Governor’s announcement that Kentucky is committed to finishing what it started all those years ago. I’d like to thank the Governor, Rocky Adkins and my colleagues in the General Assembly who helped to support this project and Eastern Kentucky as a region.”

In addition to shortening drive times, the new route will provide for an effective detour route in the event of emergency closure of either U.S. 23 or KY 80 because it can handle large vehicles.

The contractor is expected to begin work within weeks on the new route from Little Mud Creek to Tackett Branch.

The governor also recognized jobs created from the opening of Southeast State Correctional Complex and presented grant funding for community park improvements.

“I am honored to be here today to celebrate the recent achievements and bright future of Floyd County,” said Beshear. “Kentucky’s economy is set for liftoff and this county is a part of that momentum. We have created hundreds of new jobs in Wheelwright and are continuing to attract more jobs so every resident has the opportunities they need to take care of their families and reach their goals.”

Floyd County Judge/Executive Robbie Williams recognized the importance of the announcements, a major milestone in creating a more robust economy for future generations.

“We were excited to welcome Gov. Beshear to Floyd County today for the grand opening recognition of the Southeast State Correctional Complex in Wheelwright,” said Williams. “Many Floyd Countians will also greatly appreciate the Governor’s major infrastructure announcement on the completion of the Minnie to Harold Highway Connector.”

On Dec. 4, 2020, Beshear and the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet announced the Department of Corrections (DOC) had officially opened Southeast State Correctional Complex. Officials did not hold a ceremonial opening at the time in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  The complex is brining over 220 new jobs in Floyd County, in addition to the construction jobs that were created ahead of the opening. As of today, 139 prison staff members are local residents of Floyd County.

“After sitting vacant for more than 10 years, the doors to the Southeast State Correctional Complex in Wheelwright are officially open. I am happy to recognize that, today, our facility not only plays a large role in easing overcrowded prisons across Kentucky, but has created about 250 state-grade job opportunities locally,” said Rep. Tackett Laferty. “I want to sincerely thank Gov. Beshear for his commitment to reopening this facility which is now making an important impact in Eastern Kentucky and across our state. It is truly a momentous day for Floyd County and our neighbors throughout Eastern Kentucky!”

Beshear also awarded the Floyd County Fiscal Court $44,071 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a federal program aimed at improving parks and outdoor recreation spaces in local communities.

Floyd County will use the funds at Melvin Park to build a community shelter with picnic tables, add an ADA accessible playground and construct a sidewalk connecting the parking lot, shelter, buildings and playground.

These funds are part of a $4.3 million investment in Kentucky from the LWCF this year.