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Economic development, education and elected officials gathered Dec. 3 at Centre Square in Lebanon to mark the formation of the Heartland Parkway Foundation.
The intended project would run from the Bluegrass Parkway in Washington County through Lebanon, Campbellsville and Columbia to the Louie B. Nunn Parkway in Adair County. The Heartland Parkway project involves widening and expanding the existing KY 55 corridor.
John Chowning of Campbellsville University is the president of the Heartland Parkway Foundation. He said the foundation members know that the project will take years of effort and millions of dollars to become a reality.
"The purpose [of the foundation] is to have a program to build support and to educate the public long-term about the impact of the project," he said.
During the meeting, the foundation provided copies of a December 2003 economic impact study conducted by Younger Associates. According to that study, a completed Heartland Parkway could increase business output and retail sales in central Kentucky by $2.28 billion per year and lead to the creation of nearly 2,600 jobs.
The Heartland Parkway project has been in discussion for several years among federal, state and local officials, but the foundation formed this year. The foundation members include the cities of Campbellsville, Columbia, Lebanon and Springfield, the fiscal courts and economic development directors in Adair, Marion, Taylor and Washington counties, state legislators, Campbellsville University, Lindsey Wilson College and St. Catharine College.
Chowning said the members each contributed $500 to the foundation.
U.S. Congressman-elect Brett Guthrie, who will represent Kentucky's Second District, also attended last week's meeting. He said he has been familiar with the Heartland Parkway project through his work on the Senate Transportation Committee in the Kentucky legislature.
According to Guthrie the parkway would open up the entire are to new opportunities.
Marion County Economic Development Director Tom Lund agreed that the parkway could provide economic benefits throughout the central Kentucky region.
"It's a big economic development issue," Lund said, "and you can include tourism as part of that economic development."
He added that Marion County does not have easy access to major highways, but the Heartland Parkway project could change that.
"Imagine what we could do with it," Lund said.