Kentucky Road Network

By | October 13, 2022

Kentucky has a dense road network, a result of the densely populated countryside and intensively cultivated land. The main missing high-quality connection is a through east-west connection through the south of the state, including a connection to Virginia.

Road management

The road authority in Kentucky is the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC). It is one of the few states where the road authority is not called the department of transportation. KYTC manages a very extensive road network of more than 43,400 kilometers, including 2,250 kilometers of Interstate Highways and parkways, 5,800 kilometers of primary roads and approximately 33,000 kilometers of secondary roads. Kentucky is one of a number of states in which the state controls almost all roads outside built-up areas. The KYTC has its origins in the Kentucky Department of Public Roads that was founded in 1912. This was later known as the Department of Transportation, but the name was changed to the Transportation Cabinet in 1982.

  • Bittranslators: State overview of Kentucky, including geography, economy, population and history as well as introduction to major cities of Kentucky.

Interstate Highways

Kentucky is served by six major Interstate Highways routes. Interstate 24 forms a diagonal route through the west of the state, via Paducah. This is part of an important link between the Southeastern and Midwestern United States, but plays somewhat of a secondary role for traffic within Kentucky. Interstate 64 is the state’s main east-west connection, passing through Louisville and Lexington to the West Virginia border at Ashland. The Interstate 65 is a major thoroughfare north-south in the center of the state, through Bowling Green to Louisville, and is mostly equipped with 2×3 lanes or wider. I-65 also has the widest stretch of freeway in Kentucky, with a 14-lane section to the south of Louisville. I-65 crosses the Ohio River via the Abraham Lincoln Bridge.

Interstate 69 is largely an upgrade from older parkways to Interstate Highway, forming a north-south route that runs slightly diagonally through the west of the state, from Fulton on the Tennessee border to Henderson on the Ohio River, which forms the Indiana border.. I-69 is still incomplete, although the majority of the route is already a controlled-access highway. Interstate 71 begins in Louisville and heads northeast to Cincinnati. This highway connects the region’s two largest metropolitan areas, although Cincinnati metropolitan area is largely located in Ohio. The Interstate 75 forms a major north-south route in the east of the state, from the Tennessee border at Williamsburg through Lexington to Cincinnati. The highway crosses the Ohio River via the double-deck Brent Spence Bridge.

Various urban auxiliary routes complement the network. Interstate 264 forms Louisville’s inner beltway, while Interstate 265 forms the outer beltway. Interstate 275 forms Cincinnati ‘s beltway and runs through its southern suburbs in Kentucky. Interstate 471 is a short connection through Covington and Newport, two cities across from Cincinnati.

  • Deluxesurveillance: Nickname of Kentucky as The Bluegrass State. Also covers geography, history, economy, politics and administration of the state.

US Highways

Numerous US Highways traverse the state, in many cases being north-south routes due to the fact that Kentucky is stretched in the east-west direction. US 60 forms a nearly 800-mile east-west route through the north of the state, while US 62 and US 68 form east-west routes through the center of the state at approximately 600 kilometers in length. US 460 begins in the capital Frankfort and heads southeast to Virginia, through the Appalachian Mountains. This is largely a 2×2 divided highway and is the main link between Kentucky and Virginia.

The other US Highways mainly run north-south through the state. Historically, the first bridges over the Ohio River were part of the US Highways. Major north-south routes have been replaced by Interstate Highways or parkways. US 23 and US 119 form north-south routes through the Appalachian Mountains in the east of the state, where there are no Interstate Highways. US 25, along with the connecting section in Tennessee, is split into an East and West route. Even bigger is the split of US 31, which splits into almost the entire state.

State Routes

The state routes continue to be designated as ‘Kentucky Route XX’ or ‘KY XX’. The state operates a very extensive network of state routes, including countless roads of little importance. In 2003, there were as many as 3,716 different state routes in the administration of the state of Kentucky. The state routes are predominantly two-lane roads. Kentucky has relatively few 2×2 divided highways compared to the more northerly Midwestern states, and few of them are state routes. The longest state route is State Route 80.

The numbers are assigned from 1 to 3999. These are again divided into primary roads and secondary roads, where one number can consist of both road classes. The signage and road number plates do not differ between primary and secondary roads. Road numbers in the 6000 series are usually frontage roads and supplemental roads, these road numbers are in principle not signposted and mainly administrative in nature. In addition, the parkways are numbered in the 9000 series, but these road numbers are not signposted or communicated, the parkways are mainly known by their name.

History

At the beginning of the motorization era, Kentucky already had more than 2 million inhabitants. The first priority was building bridges over the Ohio River, which forms the northern border of the state of Kentucky. The first was the iconic John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge at Covington (near Cincinnati ) which opened in 1866. Elsewhere, the first bridges were built mainly in the 1920s and 1930s.

A reasonable number of roads were paved in the 1920s. The greatest concentration of paved roads in 1929 was in the middle of the state, particularly in the wider Lexington region, and south of Cincinnati, as well as around Louisville. Back then it was already possible to cross Kentucky from north to south on tarmac roads, especially US 25. Outside this region, however, the paved road network was very limited, for example, there were virtually no asphalt roads in the Appalachian Mountains and west of US 31 there were also no long stretches of asphalt. Outside of US 25 and US 31, there were few paved roads in southern Kentucky. Western Kentucky in particular was clearly underdeveloped, there were also relatively few here gravel roads. A special intersection of asphalt roads in 1929 was the town of Danville, at that time you could already go in eight directions via paved roads. Lexington was also an important hub of tarmac roads.

During the 1930s, many major roads were paved, especially in the east and south of the state. In the west there were still many gravel roads, but the main roads were now asphalted. The US Highways in particular had priority. During World War II, little work was done to improve Kentucky’s road network, but beginning in the late 1940s, the first 2×2 divided highways were constructed, most notably the arterial roads from Louisville and US 62 between Versailles and Lexington.

Kentucky’s first longer highway was the Kentucky Turnpike, a toll road from Louisville to Elizabethtown. It opened to traffic on August 1, 1956. Later this became part of Interstate 65. Nearly all of Kentucky’s highways were built in the 1960s and 1970s. I-65, I-71 and I-75 were all ready as early as 1970, I-64 took a little longer and was ready in the late 1970s when the last sections opened in Louisville. I-24 was a lesser priority for Kentucky and was completed in 1980.

Louisville’s first beltway was I-264, which was completed in the late 1960s. The second beltway, I-265, was completed in its current form in 1987, although the Ohio River crossing did not open until 2016. In 1976, I-275, which forms the Cincinnati ring road, was completed. Cincinnati is in the state of Ohio, but the southern suburbs are located in Kentucky.

A number of parkways were also constructed in the 1960s and 1970s, most notably in central Kentucky. These were originally toll roads that became toll-free in phases between the 1980s and 2006 after the construction costs had been reimbursed. Kentucky was one of the few states in the interior of the United States to have such non-interstate highways built. In other states, these were mostly four-lane at-grade roads.

Parkways

The parkways of Kentucky.

  • Audubon Parkway
  • Bluegrass Parkway
  • Cumberland Parkway
  • Hal Rogers Parkway
  • Natcher Parkway
  • Pennyrile Parkway
  • Purchase Parkway
  • Western Kentucky Parkway

Kentucky Road Network