State hears comments on reconstruction of Ky. 52

November 05, 2004|BOBBIE CURD

PAINT LICK - The state Transportation Cabinet's Department of Highways held a hearing Thursday night at Paint Lick Elementary School to answer questions and accept comments regarding the proposed reconstruction of Ky. 52 east of Lancaster.

The 4.5-mile project begins at Ky. 954 (Cartersville Road) in Garrard County and ends at Wallace Mill Road in Madison County. The project is set to begin with right-of-way acquisition in 2005. The utilities part will be in 2006, then on to construction in 2007.

The gymnasium was filled with various exhibits of maps, photos and other information to show the alternates being considered. The crowd flowed in and out for three hours.

There also was a "comment box" where a steady group of residents would gather, discuss, and fill out their forms to be left behind.


"Those comments are taken, read, analyzed and kept with the record that goes to the Federal Highway Administration. They're actually the reason we've been able to work out the alternates and review them to make sure we're doing this the right way," said David Thacker, information officer with the cabinet.

There will be an update from the cabinet on comments received in 15 days.

The alternates reflect the modifications that continue to be made on the route that the reconstruction will follow.

"We've really only heard positive feedback so far tonight ..." said Bob Nunley, design squad leader/head of design, "but I have heard some concerns that the higher speeds will affect the area, and just questions about how this will directly affect the land that they live on."

Thacker and Nunley were just two of many who made the trip from Frankfort and Lexington for the hearing. There were several engineers and other representatives from the Department of Highways and Palmer Consulting Group on hand to answer questions.

Low key atmosphere

The atmosphere was considerably low key even though some residents were finding that the new coordinates ran directly through their property, meaning they would be relocated due to the project.

"Well, neighbor - you gettin' that spare room-a ready for us?" Glenmore Snyder jokingly asked of one of his neighbors.

Snyder has lived at his residence for 30 years, and if the new recommended alternates are the final plan, he and his son will lose their houses to the reconstruction project.

Betty Arnold, on the other hand, was a "little" relieved to see that the new plan had changed and was not quite as intrusive to her property.

"One alternative was to go literally through my back yard. I mean, I could open my back door and serve construction workers cookies while they were out there. But now it looks like they're talking farther back. But you know, it could change again," Arnold said.

Dorothy Watkins, who lives at 10341 Richmond Road, had last seen that the plan was to come through her back yard, but "hallelujah, that's changed. Now those trucks won't be throwing and tossing up that dirt into my house," she said.

Watkins added that "progress is progress" and that she's thankful that officials have taken their time to plan it out so carefully and get the feedback needed from the community.

Jayne Fiegel, a historian for Palmer Consulting, said that they've had to look at the whole picture: the landscaping itself, not just the houses.

The prior alternate would've cut through the properties of both Gary Clark and his father, Claude Clark, so Gary was sure to make his voice heard.

His father has lived and farmed on the land since 1944. Gary was concerned about his father's farm and its historical value, and seemed to make an impression on the cabinet and the consulting group.

Federal law has "teeth"

Fiegel said environmental concerns about highway reconstruction have greatly changed over the last 10-12 years. She points out that the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 is a federal law "with some teeth in it."

Phil Logsdon, an environmental scientist with the Transportation Cabinet, said extensive analyzing and testing is done in many different areas.

"These are areas, for instance, that analysts and archeologists look at very closely that previously had older houses on the land. We deal very closely with environmental agencies, and there are so many processes that are used to make sure we cover everything," Logsdon said.

Fiegel and Logsdon both had interesting observations about the environmental awareness and attitudes of the Paint Lick residents. "Most farmers that this will be affecting have said that the archeologists that have come out on their land have been really nice and informative. Farmers, I think, deal with so many other situations in their daily life, I don't think that they are letting this reconstruction project upset them. Everyone here has been really nice," Logsdon said, and added that his associates would agree.

Fiegel added, "Kentucky is really on the forefront of understanding their agricultural historic resources, and that they're important. Their land is important to them."

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