The state Transportation Cabinet is considering two options, said project engineer Mike McGregor. One option would be a super two-lane highway that follows the existing U.S 641 and expands it to two 12-foot lanes with a 10-foot paved shoulder on either side.
“We wouldn’t be able to expand that (to four lanes) in the future if we went that way using the existing roadways and ... through town (Fredonia),” he said. The other option is one “in which we go through a cross country alignment in which we would buy four lanes of right-of-way and build two lanes of the road initially but with the opportunity to build the other two lanes when the funds become available and when the traffic presents the need,” McGregor said.
However, some people whose homes, yards and businesses would be disrupted believe the cabinet is leaning toward the first option — expanding the existing highway. And McGregor’s words seem to indicate the state favors that option.
One woman expressed concern that the road “will go right through my house.”
Keith Todd, public affairs officer for District 1 and 2, discounted the idea that the state favors one option over the other. The cabinet will base its decision on public input, he said.
More than 200 people pored over maps showing the two routes at a meeting in Fredonia on Aug. 13. And cabinet staff solicited feedback and distributed a two-page questionnaire seeking public comment.
“I would heartily encourage (those worried about the disruption) to sit down and write us about that,” Todd said in a phone interview Monday. “Whatever comments they have, they need to get them in to us. What you say will make a difference. We need feedback to give us direction.”
The public has another week to make concerns and ideas known to the cabinet, Todd said. And anyone unable to attend the Fredonia meeting may see the maps at the Department of Highways office in Reidland.
Judge-Executive Wade White expressed concern about both cabinet options. He has submitted a third option he believes would be less disruptive to homeowners, businesses and large farms. It would also avert traffic congestion inherent should the cabinet opt for the super two-lane along the existing U.S. 641.
White didn’t release his concept because he hasn’t heard from highway officials about his idea. He based his concept on conversations he has had with homeowners and farmers affected by each route. He also cited the many competing issues with both cabinet options.
“You’ve got the economic issue, which this road would be positive for,” he said. “You’ve got our neighbors in Crittenden County who desperately need the road, which is positive. And then you’ve got the two routes that come through Lyon County, which I think are both negative.
“If they use the existing 641, that knocks us out of ever having a four-lane highway,” White said. “The trouble is if they come down all of 641, it looks like we are going to lose a lot of homes, a lot of yards, and that bothers me quite a bit.
“Going out through the country, you could get your four-lane over time,” he said. “But the problem is the way they’ve drawn it, it actually dissects some of the most productive farmland we have. And, it’s not just us, it takes out a lot of Fredonia’s good farmland too. So I’ve got issues with both drawings.
“I am glad that (cabinet officials) allowed us to participate in this because I’ve got those raw feelings of when my grandmother had a store on 641, and the railroad came through,” he recalled.
“When they came through, there was really no option, they just showed up, and surveyed one day. She told them the land wasn’t for sale, but they just laughed at her.
“That’s always bothered me; I think people deserve to have a say in what is going on,” he said. “So I’m glad they are doing that. Then my grandmother ended up moving again when the Western Kentucky Parkway came through.
“I’ve been trying to figure out a route that would give us a four-lane but wouldn’t take out a lot of homes and a lot of good farmland,” White said. “It looks like this road is going to come one way or another, so I think my job would be to minimize the impact on our folks.”
McGregor said construction estimates indicate that though the costs are similar for both options, the super two-lane along the existing highway would be a little cheaper and could be implemented sooner.
But it wouldn’t provide access to the large Pennyrile WestPark industrial site whereas the cross-country realignment would cross WestPark. “So that two lane initial, four-lane ultimate option would utilize some of that property and give connectivity to it also,” McGregor said.
That route would depart from the existing 641 north of Fredonia at Livingston Creek near where the construction now ends, he said.
Both options would connect to the four-lane expansion of U.S. 62 near Eddyville.
“We would be looking at something that would come into U.S. 62 somewhere between Interstates-24 and 69 (the parkway),” McGregor said. “So if we bring this road into 62 somewhere between I-69 and I-24 you are tying into a four-lane in which you can go either way to the interstate.”
He said the cabinet will likely decide which route the highway will take in October or November. That will allow time to seek funding for the project when the General Assembly convenes in January.