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Public has say on 62 widening

BY CORIANNE EGAN cegan@paducahsun.com

Mandy Thompson's family put their house on Wayne Way up for sale several months ago, after layoffs at the United States Enrichment Corp. forced them to consider relocation. Any potential buyers have been scared away, she said, by the potential of having a five-lane highway running through her yard.

"I don't want to live there if this goes through," Thompson said. "Especially with my kids. I have a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old, and it's dangerous."

Thompson and five other families living on Wayne Way came to a public meeting Tuesday night at West Kentucky Community & Technical College to view plans for the widening of U.S. 62. The project, which widens the highway to five lanes for nearly a mile more to the entrance of the Commerce Park, could be under construction by the fall of 2015.

"There's been a serious uptick in traffic along U.S. 62, because of the Commerce Park and the new high school," said Michael McGregor, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 1 chief engineer. "There's also a lot of truck traffic, and a substantial accident history in that area. Hopefully, the widening will help some of that and improve connectivity."

The widening from a two-lane to a five-lane highway is estimated to cost about $7 million, McGregor said. After looking at the alternatives, engineers elected to widen the road to the north to avoid parcels of land with homes on them. The land the cabinet would have to purchase is vacant wooded area under the current design. Widening to the north also allows for minimal interference with utilities, McGregor said.

The residents of Wayne Way, however, wish the cabinet would have considered widening to the south. That way, Thompson said, the cabinet would purchase their homes and they could relocate to avoid the major highway.

Jim Farley, who lives on Wayne Way as well, said that last year an errant tire from U.S. 62 traffic crashed through a window and into his home. He fears widening the road will lead to additional traffic and more danger.

"I already can't sleep because there's trucks coming down the road 24/7," Farley said. "My house has been on the market for two years, and traffic is only increasing. I have a 16-year-old son who has to pull onto that road every day, and it's so dangerous that he goes miles out of his way to avoid it."

The widening of U.S. 62 is just the beginning of planned road projects intended to better connect parts of McCracken County and increase safety. The next planned project would be the so-called Inner Loop, a major reconstruction of North Friendship Road to connect U.S. 62 to Lone Oak   Road. Final design on that project could take up to four years.

Another concept, tentatively referred to as the Outer Loop, runs around the outside of the county, connecting U.S. 45 to U.S. 62, U.S. 60 and Cairo Road. The Legislature will have to decide whether the project warrants funding, McGregor said, because there are no funds budgeted for the Outer Loop.

Tuesday was the only public meeting on the widening project. Comments from the public were solicited and can also be turned in to the cabinet's District 1 office until April 15. McGregor said the cabinet plans to review the concerns, adjust if necessary, then get to work on a right-of-way plan to submit to Frankfort for approval.

Once the plan is approved, it could take up to a year to secure right-of-way, then an additional six months to relocate utilities.

Construction could begin in the fall of 2015 or as late as the beginning of 2016, McGregor said.

Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.

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