Kentucky Gets a New Addition to Its Parkway Network

December 18, 1970

The Audubon Parkway in western Kentucky was formally opened as a toll road. The inaugural ceremony for this newest addition to Kentucky’s parkways network took place on a windy Friday afternoon at a toll plaza located 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) west of the city of Owensboro. Approximately 300 people attended the event, and the dignitaries on hand for the grand opening included Louis B. Nunn, governor of Kentucky; William W. Miller, president of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Authority and director of the Delaware Bay and River Authority; B.E. King, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Highways (KYDOH); and Frank Harscher III, executive director o the office of Kentucky toll facilities.

The Owensboro-based Messenger-Inquirer reported, “With a quick snip of the scissors, the governor officially opened to traffic the 24.2 miles (39 kilometers) of the Audubon Parkway, which now quickly links Owensboro to [the cities of] Henderson and Evansville, and, with its completion, makes Kentucky’s toll road system the second largest in the nation.” Right after carrying out his ribbon-cutting duties, Nunn made his way into a one-seat, two-wheeled vehicle pulled by Bomberry, one of the local Audubon Raceway’s top trotting horses. Nunn maneuvered the vehicle through the plaza and deposited the newly opened parkway’s first 50-cent toll.

“Today we officially opened the first link in [western Kentucky’s] corridor of opportunity,” Nunn proclaimed to those in attendance. “This is more than a pavement of concrete. It is a pavement of the future for a long-neglected area of our state, particularly from a standpoint of highway construction and governmental concern.”

Many local residents shared Nunn’s assessment that the construction of the Audubon Parkway, along with numerous other highway projects likewise undertaken throughout the region at that time, did indeed constitute good news for the western section of the Bluegrass State. The Messenger-Inquirer called the building of the parkway pat of “a long-awaited investment in the Owensboro area, and investment which will be repaid as better transportation makes this booming area even more attractive to business and industry.”

This newspaper also highlighted the role of the state agency responsible for building the Audubon Parkway. “The Kentucky Department of Highways when organized 50 years ago had 115 miles [185.1 kilometers] of hard-surfaced roads in the system,” noted the Messenger-Inquirer. “Now the department is working on 650 miles [1,046 kilometers] of new road projects in the Owensboro area alone.”

Another strong reflection of the region’s positive outlook on these roadbuilding efforts of KYDOH had occurred three months before the dedication of the Audubon Parkway. Highway Appreciation Day was held in the vicinity of Owensboro, with a delegation of senior KYDOH officials on hand for the occasion. This delegation was led by J.R. Harbison, who was the department’s assistant engineer for planning and programming and would soon become a state highway engineer. A large part of the day’s activities involved having Harbison and the other KYDOH officials accompany local civic and government leaders on a bus tour of the Audubon Parkway and other road construction projects.

The Audubon Parkway remained a toll road until 2006. Now measuring 23.4 miles (37.7 kilometers) in length, this four-lane controlled-access freeway is the shortest of the seven roads within Kentucky’s parkways network. The Audubon Parkway bears the name of renowned ornithologist and painter John James Audubon (1785-1851), who made Kentucky his home for several years. This parkway, as a matter of fact, is the only one in Kentucky not named after any of the state’s public officials.

For more information on the Audubon Parkway, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audubon_Parkway.

(Photo courtesy of Doug Carr, Flickr.)

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