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Citizens speak against closing parkway connector

BY CARRIE DILLARD cdillard@paducahsun.com

CALVERT CITY - Marshall County residents made their voices heard Thursday night at a public information meeting regarding the Interstate 24/Purchase Parkway interchange upgrades for Interstate 69.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet engineers, design staff and consultants spoke with approximately 300 attendees at the Calvert City Civic Center, stating that they would "go back to the drawing board" in an attempt to save the parkway spur, which serves as a local connector between the Julian Carroll Purchase Parkway and U.S. 62 in Calvert City.

Based on a traffic study, project engineers estimated 7,200 drivers use the parkway connection every day.

Rick Shanklin said closing the spur would be "very bad for the community."

Shanklin, who lives in Calvert City but works in Paducah, said eliminating this road would only add to his commute time, and many others who travel for work.

Calvert City resident Paul Smith agreed.

"A lot of people who live here work in Paducah or Metropolis, and a lot of people who live in southern Illinois come here to work in the chemical plants. You're adding 15-20 miles to their round trip every day," he said.

One of the individuals who works in the Calvert City chemical plants is Paul Ambler. Although he lives in Calvert City and therefore does not have a long commute, Ambler said closing the parkway spur would send an abundance of traffic to a dangerous intersection at Ky. 95 and U.S. 68.

"When 95 meets 68, that's a very busy highway and it's a 'Y' corner. Sending high school drivers that way would be dangerous," he said. "The spur is the main route into the southern part of (Marshall) county - to the hospital and the high school."

State Rep. Will Coursey stood beside his constituents Thursday and expressed his opposition to closing the parkway connection.

"Closing the connector road would reroute local residents and commuters, forcing them to unnecessarily merge onto I-24/I-69, only to exit one mile later," Coursey said.

While Gary Valentine, deputy state highway engineer, admitted initial design options did eliminate the connection, staff members have heard the public's concerns and will consider alternatives to keep the road open, he said.

"We've heard these concerns and we're here tonight to hear what other concerns there may be. We're going to take that into consideration," he said. Regardless, they must rebuild the interchange.

"I-69 is a goal of the commonwealth of Kentucky and the nation. It's not a matter of 'if,'" he said. "We must reconstruct this interchange."

Kentucky now has 55 miles designated as I-69. The route follows I-24 for 17 miles from the Julian Carroll Purchase Parkway at Calvert City to Eddyville. I-69 then runs for 38 miles along the Wendell Ford Western Kentucky Parkway from Eddyville to the Pennyrile Parkway near Madisonville.

The existing I-24/Purchase Parkway interchange does not provide route continuity for national travelers who must make high-speed decisions quickly while maneuvering a "major split" - when interstates break away from each other - between I-24 and I-69.

The Transportation Cabinet hopes to meet both the national and regional needs of I-69 and mitigate the impact to the local community.

"We want to try to give our very best effort and find a solution for the connection that is acceptable in regards to the budget and federal highway approval," said Mike McGregor, district engineer.

The state approved a highway plan, including $34 million for construction, approximately $2 million for right-of-way acquisition and approximately $1 million for utility relocation for this project.

This is the budget the cabinet must work with not only to rebuild the Marshall County interchange but allow for the option to keep the spur open.

Design plans must be approved by the Federal Highway Administration, which has full oversight of the interstate system.

According to the state cabinet, the interchange revision is tentatively scheduled for construction in 2016.

Citizens have until July 15 to submit their concerns.

Comments may be submitted to Randy Williams at KYTC District 1, 5501 Kentucky Dam Road, Paducah, KY 42003 or randy.williams@ky.gov.

Cabinet officials expect to host another public meeting for this project later this year.

Contact Carrie Dillard, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8657.

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