The highway linking Pikeville, Kentucky with Williamson, West Virginia has been acknowledged as a hazard for many years. Over the past 30 years, increased traffic flow due to mining and industrial activity as well as rural population growth had only increased the extreme need for a new highway. Discussions and research had been underway since the early 1970’s.
The state of Kentucky chose HMB to provide Preliminary and Final Planning for the most complex section of this desperately needed roadway, a 3.5 mile relocation of the substandard, two-lane highway US 119. The rugged mountain terrain and heavy mining activity in the area only increased the complications of engineering an equitable, sustainable solution.
As plans had already been finalized and construction was underway on the highway segments surrounding this section; the Bent Mountain project to the west and the Coburn Mountain section to the east, the state of Kentucky requested that HMB put the US 119 project on a fast-track schedule. The existing plans had called for keeping the alignment of the new road in the valley floor. HMB found that this would lead to severe water quality problems due to the need for aggressive stream channel changes. There was also a significant number of commercial and residential relocations called for that HMB was determined to minimize.
Realizing that the economic and social impact could be tremendous using traditional construction methods, HMB also recognized the need to provide uninterrupted usage of local rural access roads, even during embankment construction. Other complexities included an endangered rural family cemetery and a desire to open up access to rural areas that had been isolated for years.
HMB met this challenge head on. In keeping with the project’s fast-track status, HMB provided an advance right-of-way submittal during the preliminary planning stage allowing the state to purchase the necessary land during the final design phase. It was also found that by tucking the highway realignment into the valley walls, instead of on the valley floor as had been planned, many environmental issues were solved and the relocation of residences and local businesses was minimized.