Community meets to hear 641 Connect update and share criticisms

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet representatives and community members attended the 641 Connect public hearing on July 19. The 641 Connect project aims to expand the U.S. 641 corridor spanning Lyon, Caldwell and Crtittenden counties. Alternate routes, environmental assessment discoveries, and public comment were presented at the hearing.

The 641 Connect project is a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet item that aims to improve safety and mobility on U.S. 641; planning for the project began 15 years ago.

The portion of U.S. 641 that is proposed for reconstruction connects Eddyville and Fredonia. Contingent funding and public scrutiny have prolonged the project’s commencement.

If the project moves forward, and funding is awarded, construction can begin in Lyon County as early as 2025.

On Monday, a 641 Connect virtual public hearing was hosted. KYTC officials and community members attended the event.

The purpose of the meeting was to hear public comment, present environmental studies, and present preferred alternate routes.

“We present these to you tonight, as options to be considered. No final decision has been made by the cabinet,” said Paul Looney, KYTC deputy secretary.

Tony Green was a concerned resident who expressed dissatisfaction and disappointment. He said he encountered a wall when reaching out to KYTC for guidance and information.

Improper and untimely correspondence has put Green in limbo, he said, adding he is unsure of his future in his newly invested home.

“It’s devastating thinking it may get dozed out, after 12 years of my life invested in it,” Green said.

Project Development Branch Manager and acting District 1 Utility Supervisor Chris Kuntz spoke about the right-of-way acquisition process. He said during the final design phase — next fall — property owners will be contacted to schedule detailed land surveys.

Also, during the property acquisition phase, the highway department will send letters to homeowners informing them their homes are going to be purchased for the project.

A Louisville resident shared his concerns over cemetery acquisitions. He said his family members are buried at two of the cemeteries where the project is designed.

“These two cemeteries have been played around with in a cavalier manner,” he said. “Instead, they have chosen to avoid learning anything about these cemeteries.”

Kuntz said KYTC officials will follow up and present new findings and proposals with the concerned community member outside of the meeting.

“The Boone Farm has been ground zero since 2002 phase one,” Donald Boone said. “I have lost 45 acres due to the project.”

Boone shared several talking points that included lawsuits and misinformation. Boone also noted flood zones are not properly accounted for in the preferred alternate route design.

He said cemeteries in Fredonia lay in the project’s design. The significance of the cemeteries is that they are recognized as historical sites because they hold war veterans and slaves from the 1800s.

Boone said he has battled KYTC and the project’s implementation for more than 15 years.

Caldwell County Judge-Executive Larry Curling and Fredonia Mayor Jim Seibert shared comments as well.

“We have an issue with this road going over our water lines,” Seibert said.

He said the water lines in Fredonia are old and will fail if not replaced prior to the project’s completion.

He also recommends bicycle lanes incorporated into the design. He referenced other highway projects where it was implemented.

“We would really like to have a bike lane coming from Eddyville to Fredonia. That’s a tourism business I can start and work with to make up for what you are taking away from us,” Seibert said.

Tim Capps, president of Par 4 Plastics, said, “The future growth of our business is contingent upon the completion of this project. Our customers complain, and we lose business because truck drivers do not want to travel the current road.”

Public comments will be accepted until Aug. 6. The final design phase begins later this fall and right-of-way acquisitions are scheduled for 2023.