CHARLESTON – Delegate Justin Marcum (D-20) has publicly issued his support behind Kentucky Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo’s idea to connect the Mountain Parkway to Beckley, West Virginia. The Mountain Parkway currently connects eastern Kentucky with economic hubs such as Lexington, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio. It has seen numerous industries develop along the high tech corridor.
Marcum has already spoken with Rep. Chris Harris from Pike County Kentucky about this plan. Both Rep. Harris and Delegate Marcum agree that the connection of the Mountain Parkway to Beckley will serve as a viable tool to diversify the economy of eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia. The two legislators met privately to discuss the idea on Thursday and each left the meeting with great hopes. Marcum stated that “connecting the Mountain Parkway with Beckley will add an immediate boost to the struggling economy of southern West Virginia. This idea will allow for immediate construction jobs and future economic development along the proposed corridor.”
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonburg) believes the extension is needed to “unlock the potentials of our region’s vibrant workforce.” Delegate Marcum agreed with this statement and added that “we have the best blue collar workforce in America. We have laid off coal miners who not asking for a handout, they are asking for a job.”
The proposed road will run right through Mingo County and all of southern West Virginia, stated Marcum. This is a project that would cost approximately $10 billion dollars but the potential positive impacts greatly outweigh any price tag. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear applauded Stumbo’s vision and believes this idea will help transform the region according to a recent press release. On the other hand, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was not so optimistic about the idea. He was quoted as saying “it was up to the governor and lawmakers in Frankfort to prioritize Kentucky’s share of Federal Highway Trust Fund Dollars.”West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, noted the importance of federal dollars for such a road project in a statement by his communications director, Chris Stadelman.”Investing in our infrastructure is critical to supporting ongoing economic growth in the Appalachian region; however, these major projects are difficult without funding support from Congress,” Stadelman said.
The extension would, in effect, provide a four-lane road from Paducah in Western Kentucky to I-64 at Beckley, W.Va., Stumbo said. Speaker Stumbo also mentioned that President Obama has authorized spending at least $1 billion dollars of coal reclamation funds for projects in the area.
Delegate Marcum believes this project is doable and that is should be prioritized. “If I was a member of the U.S. Congress from either West Virginia or Kentucky, I would be pushing for this idea to happen now.” He added that “our leaders have failed us in the past and it is vital that we bring new blood to the table, work together with my friends in Kentucky, and focus on jobs in southern West Virginia.” Lastly, Marcum added that the “north-south divide in West Virginia must end.”
Marcum also reached out to Congressman Evan Jenkins and Senate President Bill Cole but has yet to get an answer as to whether they will get behind this idea. “I hope these individuals will support Speaker Stumbo and his efforts to help the entire region”, added Marcum.
The King Coal Highway is completed in some portions throughout southern West Virginia. Marcum added that those portions could be incorporated into this plan in an effort to speed up this roadway while cutting costs. Lastly, Marcum added that he is “appreciative of Speaker Stumbo, Governor Beshear, Rep. Chris Harris, Senator Art Kirkendoll (D-Logan), and Mingo County Commissioner John Mark Hubbard for their support of this idea.”
Bill Cole represents the Sixth District and serves as Senate President in West Virginia. “The proposed corridor would run right through the heart of the Sixth District and there should be no reason why he doesn’t get on board with this project immediately”, stated Marcum.
Justin Marcum represents the 20th District in the West Virginia House of Delegates.