The road was renamed for Wendell H. Ford, a former Kentucky governor and United States Senator, in 1998. Previously, it was simply the Western Kentucky Parkway, and often called the "WK Parkway" because of the abbreviation once used on its signs. The road carries the unsigned designation of Kentucky Route 9001 (WK 9001).
At exit 77 near Beaver Dam, the parkway intersects with the William H. Natcher Parkway, which goes from Bowling Green to Owensboro. At exit 37 near Madisonville, the parkway intersects with the Edward T. Breathitt Pennyrile Parkway, which runs from Hopkinsville to Henderson.
A service area featuring a gas station and an Arby's restaurant is located in the median, just west of the interchange with the Natcher Parkway. It is the only such service area in the entire Kentucky parkway system. (Two other service areas were once located on the old Kentucky Turnpike, a toll road from Louisville to Elizabethtown that predated the parkway system and later became part of I-65; they were closed when toll collection ended and the turnpike was officially absorbed into the Interstate Highway system.)
The parkway was originally a toll road, as were all Kentucky parkways. State law requires that toll collection ceases when enough tolls are collected to pay off the parkway's construction bonds; that occurred in 1987. It is constructed similar to the Interstate Highway system, though sections do not measure up to current Interstate standards.
Funding remains the big issue for upgrading the parkways to interstate standards, as there is no funding in the state's 2006 Six-Year Transportation Plan specifically for I-69. However, it is likely that Kentucky will perform the required upgrades on individual segments of the the Western Kentucky Parkway when the pavement reaches the end of its lifespan, through "Pavement Preservation Projects." This approach is similar to the way New York is upgrading its substandard Route 17 Expressway to I-86.
During a pavement preservation project, the existing pavement is removed, repairs are made to the highway's sub-base, and the road is then resurfaced. During such a project bridges and overpasses may be rehabilitated or replaced, drainage systems are upgraded, and other modifications are made to the mainline and interchanges improve safety on the road without completely reconstructing it, allowing it to remain at least partially open during construction.
Evidence that Kentucky may be taking this approach was reflected in a $23 million project completed in 2005 that replaced and upgraded 11 miles of pavement. This project was performed on a portion of the parkway that is expected to become part of I-69 west of the interchange with the Breathitt Parkway.
|Lyon||Eddyville||0.000||1||, Nashville||Westbound exit and eastbound entrance; signed as exits 1A (east) and 1B (west)|
|Caldwell||Princeton||11.700||12||KY 91/KY 139 - Marion, Princeton||Serves Lake Barkley State Resort Park|
|13.116||13||KY 293 - Providence, Princeton|
|Hopkins||Dawson Springs||24.435||24||KY 109 - Dawson Springs, Providence||Serves Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park|
|Nortonville||38.311||38||Pennyrile Parkway - Hopkinsville, Madisonville||Signed as exits 38A (south) and 38B (north)|
|Muhlenberg||48.049||48||KY 175, Cemetery Road|
|Powderly||52.518||53||KY 181 - Sacramento, Greenville||Serves Lake Malone State Park|
|Central City||57.947||58||Serves Lake Malone State Park|
|76.757||77||William H. Natcher Parkway - Bowling Green, Owensboro||Signed as exits 77A (south) and 77B (north)|
|Grayson||Caneyville||94.225||94||KY 79 - Caneyville, Morgantown||Serves Rough River Dam State Resort Park|
|Leitchfield||106.965||107||KY 259 - Leitchfield, Brownsville|
|Clarkson||111.875||112||KY 224 - Clarkson, Millerstown||Westbound exit and eastbound entrance|
|Hardin||123.474||124||KY 84 - Eastview, White Mills|
US 31W Byp. north - Fort Knox
|West end of US 31W Byp. overlap|
|136.545||137||- Nashville, Lexington, Louisville||Signed as exits 137A (south) and 137B (north)|
|136.796||East end of US 31W Byp. overlap; at-grade intersection|