A 2006 Kentucky Transportation Cabinet initiative is moving forward with Item No. 1-187.31, formally known as the 641 Connect project — an alternate highway route spanning Eddyville and Fredonia.
KYTC will host a virtual public hearing on July 19 at 6 p.m. to get public opinion. Residents will be updated on the project timeline specifically, the preferred alternate route, and the Environmental Assessment will be presented.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) mandates environmental assessments be conducted for such projects.
The assessment is comprehensive in scope and enables concerned residents to criticize and inquire. Most importantly, the assessment provides invaluable data and project nature.
The last public meeting was in 2019 when the Preliminary Preferred Alternate Route was introduced.
The three primary goals of the U.S. 641 highway expansion are to improve connectivity, enhance freight transportation, and reinforce traffic safety, according to the cabinet.
The assessment reported U.S. 641 corridor along Eddyville and Fredonia had a crash rating above the state average; there were 70 crashes between Oct. 1, 2016, and Sept. 20, 2019, officials said.
In total, seven alternative routes were devised to avoid invasive and detrimental approaches and implementation.
In general, impacts from construction in rural farmlands pose a myriad of concerns for property owners and residential stakeholders.
According to the assessment, “Impacts to the natural environment from construction will include potential erosion and sedimentation that could affect the residential and agricultural grounds near the project.“
In the assessment, Lyon County is said to be home to the New Madrid Seismic Zone, and “Should faults in this area become active, soil creep, slumps and landslides may occur along slopes due to ground motion and erosion.”
In Caldwell County, karst landscapes pose sinkhole concerns. Regardless of the impacts, KYTC officials said effects are temporary and minor.
The assessment provided a maintenance-of-traffic plan, an erosion control plan, and other regulatory procedures.
Relocation and displacement are inevitable. Several businesses, cemeteries, a substation, and some residents will be affected by the project. Relocation assistance and replacement housing will be available, according to the assessment.
“Should relocations become necessary, all housing is available to all persons without regard to race, creed, color, or national origin as required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1966.”
KYTC has gone as far as incorporating environmental justice language into the assessment and proposals: “Windshield surveys, interviews with local officials, and review of census data revealed no evidence that the proposed build alternates will have any disproportionate or adverse effects to minority or low income populations, and it is not anticipated that any neighborhoods or communities would be adversely impacted.”
Other community design proposals included a pedestrian and bicycle right of way. After study and deliberation, the assessment determined pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes were not feasible because of low pedestrian activity on rural highways.
The KYTC administrative environmental assessment concluded capital investment and infrastructure planning would offset any tax revenue impacts, and the “cumulative socioeconomic effects of the project are expected to be beneficial.”