Throwback Thursday – Over 70 years of beautifying Bowling Green highways

Keeping our roads safe and protecting highways are just a couple of responsibilities of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. More than 70 years ago, one of its local employees was the first to plan a roadside park in Bowling Green. In 1948, William Taylor Runner helped start a continuous journey to keep the natural beauty of our highways.

William Taylor Runner was born in Bowling Green in 1890. He was a war veteran and hero, serving in the U.S. Army during WWI. He started working for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet in 1930 and was a big supporter of highway maintenance and preservation. He planned the first roadside park in Bowling Green in 1948.

Nationwide, the country was feeling the post-WWII boom with a powerful economy, suburbs popping up outside every metro area, more highways and infrastructure under construction than ever, and the dawn of the U.S. interstate system. Keeping these new roads safe, clean, and unobtrusive was a priority. As businesses thrived and advertisers put up billboards without regulations, there came a need for legislation.

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Federal Highway Beautification Act into law, restricting any unnatural obstacles within 660 feet of all federal highways and interstates. According to Spindletop Research’s official economic impact study
on the act in Kentucky, the Commonwealth was one of the first states to sign an agreement with the federal government to do this four years prior, in 1961.

Operation P.R.I.D.E. was founded in Bowling Green in 1993, with a non-profit mission to enhance and maintain the community’s appearance. Its most recent project is Beautify-65, a roadside design for Bowling Green exits off the interstate.