Caution urged after new road opens, connecting states around Breaks Interstate Park

Weekday broadcast of WYMT Mountain News at 6
Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 6:28 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 14, 2023 at 10:24 PM EST
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ELKHORN CITY, Ky. (WYMT) - A new road is connecting Virginia and Kentucky with an intersection that hopes to funnel drivers to the interstate park.

An 8.7-mile connecting road for US 460 is now complete. It connects the Elkhorn City community of Pike County with the Southern Gap area of Virginia.

“Every year, we talk to people that are just blown away by the beauty of the park, the amenities that we have to offer,” said Park Superintendent Austin Bradley. “The drive has always been one of the major drawbacks of getting to the Breaks.”

Bradley said the newly-open roadway is not only a catalyst for tourism, but it is a connecting tool for several communities.

“There’s just a tremendous amount of excitement,” said Bradley. “About not only the section that recently opened, but once the entire project is done within the next couple of years that will connect Grundy to Pikeville.”

However, he worries the excitement of the new road could overshadow the environment itself. Bradley said drivers should remember the highway is still a habitat for wild animals.

“While all that is phenomenal from a tourism perspective and a wildlife viewing perspective, it could also potentially be dangerous for drivers who aren’t paying attention, aren’t obeying the speed limit,” he said.

From elk to bears, Bradley said the surrounding mountains are full of wildlife and it is crucial to be cautious on the roads.

“We’re trying to really get the message out there that when people are traveling this corridor, you know, that they need to be very vigilant about the number of animals that they could potentially encounter,” he said.

Both the Breaks Interstate Park and Southern Gap Outdoor Adventures shared the sentiment on their respective Facebook pages.

“Enjoy our views, our wildlife and our region but let’s do it in the safest way possible,” Southern Gap Outdoor Adventures shared in its post. “During the construction phases, it was not uncommon to see the elk beside the road and in the road walking. It may take them a little time to acclimate to traffic. In the meantime, just be aware as you travel the new road!”