In Aug. 26 IssueBy Kim GrahamTimes Journal Reporter
In a public meeting Thursday night at Freedom Christian Church, local residents gathered to review maps of the US-127 reconstruction and offer comments regarding the proposed new route.
Kentucky highway engineers and engineering consultants from QK4 and Palmer Engineering, companies contracted by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to design the proposed reconstruction of US-127, were on hand to answer questions.
The highway project involves the reconstruction and relocation of US-127 from the Jamestown Bypass to its intersection with Ky-90 in the Snow Community of Clinton County.
Reconstruction, approximately 20 miles almost entirely along a new route, would include a new bridge over the Cumberland River in the Creelsboro Community at Swan Pond Bottom downstream of Wolf Creek Dam.
Some residents learned portions of their property or, in some cases, all their property will likely be purchased in right of way acquisitions to allow for construction of the new road.
"It's going right through the middle of my yard," said Russell County Resident J.J. Hunter. "I'll have to sell. That just don't fit why I bought this place at all."
Hunter said he lives about a quarter mile off US-127 and enjoys the privacy of his property.
"Right now it's just recommended so I'll just hold off and see (what happens)," said Hunter. "I'll just start looking (for places to move)."
Freedom Christian Church's Pastor Wendell Roberts is Hunter's neighbor and his property will also be split in half by the proposed reroute of US 127.
"Of course I'm sad," said Roberts. "But If I'm happy, then someone else is sad. If it doesn't get me, it's going to get someone else."
Some residents like Joe and Joyce Feese will have no choice but to move from their ancestral home if the proposed route is finalized.
"My wife was born in the house we live in," said Joe Feese. "She's 74 (years old) now."
Their Russell County home is directly in the path of Alternate D, the recommended preferred alignment for the new stretch of highway.
"I'm not looking forward to moving that's for sure," Feese said. "I'd just assume the road go some other place."
Three alternative routes were considered for the path of the new highway and were combined to make up the recommended preferred option after previous public comment and environmental assessment.
"We've studied the alignments for years to determine which alignment has the least impact," said Jim Gallt of Pallmer Engineering. "Alternate D is a combination of Alternate routes A, B, and C."
In considering the proposed routes, environmental issues including hilly terrain, privately held parcels of land, the river, historic districts, archeological sites, and various federal endangered species such as the Indiana bat and gray bat were studied and an environmental assessment was presented for public review at the meeting.
Gallt said residential relocation is a huge determining factor in choosing the preferred alignment for US 127.
Indeed, some residents who attended the meeting learned their lifelong homes would not be in the path of the reconstruction project.
"Where I live has been in my family for years and years," said Russell County resident Phillip Marcum. "The only good news is that it's not going through my house."
He said one of the alternate routes would have gone through his house and he would have had to move.
Learning the new route would spare his property brought mixed emotions for Marcum who is concerned about his neighbors who aren't as fortunate.
"On person's good fortune is another's bad luck," Marcum said. "I hate it for the ones who have to move."
Primary purposes of the meeting were to present the recommended preferred alternative route and the Environmental Assessment and to receive public input regarding the project.
Submitted comments received will be reviewed and considered and additional historical and archaeological analyses will be completed. Alternate routes will be reviewed and a final decision will be made selecting a route.
The final decision will be compiled in a report called Finding Of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and submitted to the Federal Highway Administration.
Following approval of the FONSI, a notice of the decision will be posted in local newspapers.
Due to the remaining archaeological and historical work to be done, a final decision is anticipated around May 2011.
"At this time, it's all dependent upon the FONSI," said Tom Clouse, KYTC DOH District 8 Branch Manager, Tom Clouse. "Once we get the FONSI, we should start acquisition of property."
At present, there is no set date for property to change hands and construction to begin.
"A rough timeline for right of way acquisition is in the next two years but it could be faster or slower," said Clouse.
He said a project this large will be started in pieces as money is allocated. The first piece to advance will be from US 127 Bypass at KY 55.
"The Legislature has set aside money for the piece of the project that starts on the Jamestown end," Clouse said.
For those who haven't sent comments, there is still time to get public comments submitted for review.
"Residents have until September 9th to return comments," said KYTC Environmental Coordinator Jami West.
Comments may be submitted by mail to: Tom Clouse, PE, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, District 8, P.O. Box 780, Somerset, KY 42502; by calling 606-677-4017 or 1-800-903-5844; by faxing to 606-677-4013; by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org; or by visiting the website: http://envdoc.qk4.com/us127.html, click on Public Hearing Comment Form.