County seeks highway expansion

Ed Marlowe
Staff writer

Calloway County is set to receive multiple road and bridge renovations as part of the 2012-2018 Kentucky Highway Plan submitted to the Kentucky General Assembly in early January.

The largest of the renovations, costing $9.6 million, entails widening U.S. Hwy. 641 South from the Murray city limits all the way to the Tennessee state line, spanning Clarks River in the process.

Keith Todd, public information officer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said the project has been divided into two sections with the bridge as the meeting point.

“We have been approved for work to begin from the bridge to the state line after acquiring one parcel of property,” Todd said. “We are hoping for funding this year for the one mile from Murray to the Clarks Bridge.”

The County submitted a state proposal that requests for the expansion of U.S. 641 through Murray || Greg Johnson/Contributing photographer

With 8,300 cars traveling U.S. Hwy. 641 in south Calloway and 6,800 cars passing through Hazel, Ky., daily, Todd said the main reason for the widening is to ensure the safety of drivers     and to increase the amount of capacity the road can handle.

Peyton Mastera, Murray projects administrator, said while design, engineering phases and right-of-way acquisition are underway, the timetable for construction to begin has so far been undetermined.

“These highway projects have to go through funding approvals and utility relocations before people actually see road construction,” Mastera said. “(This project) is similar to the widening of Highway 121 from 12th Street out to Bailey Road.”

Todd said it takes anywhere from six months to one year after a project has been approved by the state to purchase right-of-way and move proper utilities before construction can commence at any site.

The total cost of Calloway’s road repairs over the six-year period will near $31 million once all projects are completed. Todd said repairs of the biggest priority will come first.

“Basically, the state looks at the money available and says ‘What can we build?’” he said. “From the money available, the state then decides order of importance.”

The collapsing of Eggner’s Ferry Bridge, Todd said, does not change the priority of the road projects submitted to the Kentucky General Assembly.

“We have money for emergency situations,” he said. “Accidents do not generally increase in priority over other state projects.”

Almost one year ago, the Murray City Council compiled a list of road repair priorities and submitted them to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Cabinet engineers then review the feasibility of the projects and choose which projects move on and which projects are delayed or axed from the listing.

Senior staffs of the Cabinet located in Frankfort, Ky., then realign project priorities and create a draft road plan, presenting the findings to the Kentucky Legislature.

The Legislature has final word on whether the projects can move forward, be delayed until funding arrives or be completly nixed altogether.

Todd said it is possible multiple projects to begin shooting up around the county at the same time.

“These projects are like building a foundation to a house,” he said. “When one project gets to the middle or end point, another one can be started somewhere else.”