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Future Uncertain for Widening Murray’s Busy 16th Street Into Boulevard

Plans for converting a busy street through Murray State's campus into a boulevard are nearing completion, though funding for the project remains uncertain. 

Tim Choate of the Paducah-based engineering firm BFW presented plans to Murray's City Council Monday night for modifying 16th Street - a street that often has high pedestrian and vehicle traffic. A survey presented found the highest level of foot traffic was at 9 a.m. and the highest level of vehicle traffic was at 7 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The plans feature a median that has a three-foot decorative fence and basic landscaping to prevent jay-walking. The road is widened by about 20 feet, with most of the widening shifted to the west in an effort to preserve some of the old trees that line the road. The new road (on both sides) will also feature bike lanes and an inclined curb leading to the sidewalk should a motorist need to make room for an emergency vehicle. Space will be made in front of 'The Great Lawn' to accommodate bus parking. Currently, there are eight pedestrian crossings and the new plan would bring this down to four. Also, the entrance into the Faculty Hall parking lot would be shifted north. There will be no changes to the busy 'five points' intersection.

The cost for maintaining the landscaping in the median has not yet been decided. Other factors that remain to be decided are the types of traffic signal used at pedestrian crossings. Three variations were presented. There was also some discussion as to whether or not a three-foot fence was tall enough.

Murray Mayor Jack Rose said the purpose of the presentation was to bring the new Council up to speed on the plans. He said the $7 million for the project is lingering in the state pause on new road projects, known as 'Pause 50.' "It could come now or it could come in the regular session next year. I just don't know. And that's the reason if somebody says 'would you rather have the boulevard or 641 south, it's pretty clear."

Rose said the city's "number one priority" is expanding 641 south and doesn't want to lose the allocated funds from Frankfort if it means prioritizing that project over the boulevard. "We've lost 641 south two times... I don't want to see that happen again." He said, "We may or may not end up with a boulevard."

The boulevard plan is set to be 'shovel-ready' by July 1 whether or not there are funds to begin construction.

Rose said the next step for 641 is working with engineers to create a design involving moving the utilities through funding reimbursed by the state.

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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