Pikeville Cut-Through Project
Pikeville before the Cut-Through with the town between the mountain and the river.
Cut-Through in progress
Cut-Through after completion
Backstory and Context
The Cut-Through Project in Pikeville, Kentucky is one of the largest earth-moving operations in the world. Between 1973 and 1987, 18,000,000 cubic yards of earth were moved at a cost of more than $77 million dollars (about $160 million today). The project began as a way to cut down on coal dust I town by rerouting train tracks to somewhere outside the city. That idea led to the bigger one of rerouting the river that surrounded the town to reduce flooding, which had devastated the town several times in the previous decades.
Originally, Pikeville was a horseshoe-shaped town sandwiched between a mountain and the Big Sandy River. Moving the river to the other side of the mountain freed up land to build on and drastically reduced the chances of flooding destroying the downtown area of Pikeville. Flood walls were built to further protect the city, but with the rerouting of the river, they’ve rarely needed to be closed.