With the public comment period for the U.S. 641 Connect project — Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Item #1-187.31 — closing on Aug. 6, Donnie Boone remains wary of the final design, set to begin later this fall, and a Right of Way acquisition phase funded and scheduled for 2023.
Chris Kuntz, KYTC project manager, said during the recent U.S. 641 Connect virtual public hearing on July 19, that the cabinet has designated funding for Right of Way acquisitions.
The portion of U.S. 641 that is proposed for reconstruction connects Eddyville and Fredonia. If the project moves forward, and funding is awarded, construction can begin in Lyon County as early as 2025.
According to the revised and updated KYTC Six-Year Highway Plan for fiscal years 2020 to 2026, $4.2 million is reserved in federal funds for a 2023 Right of Way acquisition phase to relocate the U.S. 641 corridor.
Boone said his property has been “ground zero” since the beginning of the project. He has gone to court against KYTC on more than one occasion. The Boone family were defendants in Commonwealth of Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Department of Highways vs. Mary Belle Boone, in Civil Action. No. 07-CI-00416. The course of the case involved a trial by jury, an appeal, and a settlement.
Boone was sure to express his disappointment during the public hearing. He was not alone. Another Caldwell County resident, Tony Green, attended the public hearing. He was explicitly told that KYTC’s project is not going to dislocate his homestead.
The preferred alternate route proposed at the meeting indicated that Green is one of the eight residents who will be relocated and displaced as a result.
KYTC presented the Environment Assessment at the hearing. According to the assessment, 13 farms are impacted and four would be severed — the most controversial aspect of the preferred alternate route is cemetery relocation and displacement.
In previous iterations, alternate routes were redesigned after studies and surveys recognized Fredonia and Caldwell County historically marked and designated cemeteries.
Boone said his property expands into three counties, Crittenden, Lyon, and Caldwell. He is located in northern Fredonia, the site where the project is supposed to end; Lyon County would be the starting point for construction.
On U.S. 641, next to Boone’s corn crops is the Centreville Livingston Presbyterian Church Cemetery. Established in 1799, it is designated a Kentucky Pioneer Cemetery by the Kentucky Historical Society. Boone’s land surrounds the cemetery.
He said he urged KYTC to conduct additional studies, including ground penetration and drainage flow.
During a follow-up with Boone, he pointed the issue with Livingston Creek. It runs through the woods of the cemetery.
KYTC concluded that the spring in the creek was an ephemeral flow, not a perennial spring.
Boone said he grew up on the land and has never seen the spring not flowing, adding it is a perennial spring and that KYTC incorrectly surveyed it.
Boone said another National Register of Historic Places site on his property is an archeological site 14Ca67. The historic Trail of Tears runs through a portion of Boone’s property as well.
Boone said after KYTC constructed the bridge crossing Livingston Creek on U.S. 641, it sits unused and is beginning to crack. He noted that after the construction of the bridge, the turkey on his property significantly diminished, costing him thousands of dollars a year.
Boone has documented every correspondence, has archived photos, and continues to be the primary advocate from Caldwell County dissenting against KYTC.
This project is listed in KYTC’s Recommended 2020 2026 Six-Year Plan as item 01 187.50, the relocation of US 641 from south of the Lyon/Caldwell County line to Fredonia. It is also listed in the 2019 2022 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program as items 01 187.5 and 01-187.6.
In KYTC’s final statement in their assessment of the preferred alternate route, the cabinet said: “Community cohesion in the residential areas along US 641 should not be adversely affected because regional access to goods and services are expected to be improved from the construction of the project.”