Natcher Parkway now Interstate 165

Change expected to boost area’s economy

Crews began installing new “Interstate 165” signs along the 72-mile Natcher Parkway on Wednesday.

The process is expected to take up to two weeks.

That means the four-lane highway between Owensboro and Bowling Green is now an interstate highway — even though work is continuing on upgrades.

The Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce has been pushing to turn the state parkway into a federal interstate since December 2004, arguing that out-of-state businesses and industries don’t understand that parkways are virtually the same as interstates.

“It will absolutely attract business, talent and people,” Candance Brake, the chamber’s president, said Thursday. “If you look at Owensboro on a map and see our connectivity to an interstate, it is a game changer.”

Daviess Judge-Executive Al Mattingly agreed.

“While we know what parkways are, most folks are not familiar with the term,” he said.

Site selectors ask about interstates, Mattingly said.

Brake said, “Having actual shields on 165 is something for us to celebrate. There will now be interstate shields leading to our community — something we thought was impossible just a few years ago. This will create boundless economic opportunities and tourism opportunities for our community.

She said, “This kind of success is what happens when everyone works together. Our local, state and federal transportation leaders and elected officials all have worked tirelessly on this. And our business community has been right there alongside them.”

Deneatra Henderson, chief district engineer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet in Madisonville, said, “This transition of the Natcher Parkway to Interstate 165 over the next few months will add an important link to Kentucky’s interstate system. The Interstate 165 designation will be especially important to economic development efforts in Owensboro-Daviess County, as well as Hartford, Beaver Dam, Ohio County and the region.”

Gov. Matt Bevin added in a news release, “With direct interstate connectivity, communities all along this corridor are well positioned for economic development opportunities and sustained growth. In addition to being economically transformational for the region, the physical upgrades to the roadway will enhance the safety and overall commute for those traveling along I-165.”

The entire parkway wasn’t eligible for designation as an interstate.

The state said the section that runs from the I-65 interchange in Bowling Green to the U.S. 231-Scottsville Road exit will be Kentucky 9007

The Plano Road interchange in Bowling Green will be the southern end of I-165.

Completing the changeover to I-165 required reconstructing three cloverleaf interchanges — at Kentucky 69 at Hartford, the U.S. 231 interchange near Cromwell and the U.S. 231 interchange in Warren County.

Work is continuing, the state said, at the interchange at U.S. 31-W and at the interchange at U.S. 68 in Bowling Green to upgrade those areas to meet the federal guidelines.

That construction, a news release said, “extends the ramp tapers, making it safer for motorists to exit on and off the interstate, as well as upgrading the bridge walls and bridge decks.”

It added that there’s still work to be done along the new interstate in Ohio and Daviess counties.

By Keith Lawrence Messenger-Inquirer