Calvert City is at a crossroads whether to move forward with the development of a riverport on the Tennessee River. City and County officials recently met with the Riverport Authority to consider options for a possible access road that would connect the site to major roadways.
The three options presented by engineering firm Bacon Farmer Workman had costs ranging from three million to five million dollars and each had logistical and environmental considerations. The variables involve direct connectivity to roads including US 62 and I-24, utilities and impact to residences, farmland and wetlands.
The Marshall Calvert Port Authority owns 50 acres of land along the Tennessee River to the west of Calvert City. While the recent meeting was to address the roads, the larger master plan involves developing an estimated $20 million port.
In the meeting, and afterwards, Calvert Riverport Authority chairman Josh Tubbs stressed that the discussion at hand is solely regarding the roads. "What we are looking at is transportation routes proposed to connect this whole site to I-24... This does not address some of the other infrastructure issues that would literally cost tens of millions of dollars,” he said. This includes costs involved in natural gas, electric, water and wastewater infrastructure.
Marshall County Judge Executive Kevin Neal said costs are always an issue in road projects, noting limited road funding at the state level.
Calvert City Mayor Lynn Jones said the access roads under consideration would increase industrial traffic to and from the site, as well as improve connections to existing nearby businesses - including a landfill. "That's what's important, that we find a way for that industrial traffic to get there from a major intersection off an interstate as fluidly as we possibly can and to minimize the potential for residential impact that can be there - and even the footprint for environmental," he said.
While frustration was expressed at times during the meeting with regards to moving the project forward, Tubbs says it's more a matter of being realistic. The project has long been in the works. The authority has operational funds of between $1.7 to $2 million. Tubbs said the city and county have contributed in the past, but this is no longer the case.
"You have a great site open for development. Obviously it's on the Tennessee River. It's very close to heavy industry already with the Calvert City complex. It's not unheard of in any community that's looking at economic development to have to contend with the cost of infrastructure development," he said.
Tubbs says the board is open to options regarding the mutual benefit of the city and county. He said there may be other initiatives for which the money could be spent given the "diverse economy" of Marshall County and the west Kentucky region, should officials want to reallocate the funding.
Regarding the frustration, Mayor Jones says people tend to get bogged down by money. He says any development would take several years to accumulate the funding needed for the roads, so a three million dollar investment wouldn't necessarily come as a lump sum. He is also optimistic the state will assist in the development of a project if the community demonstrates a willingness to invest.
"It seems to me that if a community is willing to put five to five and a half million dollars into a project, the state of Kentucky can put a million-five to see that thing through. That's what the governor continues to say. 'I want to be a partnership.' That's a pretty good partnership," Jones said.
Jones said the city is ready to move forward, but development outside of the city limits will be determined by the county. "The city certainly has that interest and we'll go forward and do our part. But the county has limited resources and we understand that," he said.
Judge Neal did not return a request for follow-up comment, but has said he wants to see a riverport become a reality, according to Marshall County Daily.