As fatal crashes rise on South 641 in Calloway County, officials are looking to reinstate a resolution prioritizing state action on the road.
Earlier this year, Judge-Executive Larry Elkins approved a resolution urging the Kentucky Department of Transportation to coordinate improvements to U.S. Highway 641 south of Murray.
He says it’s a long-contended issue, but that plans to widen the road to four lanes between Murray and Hazel are the County’s top road construction priority.
“Back 10 or 12 years ago, the State Highway Department did some studies, had several different options, spent a lot of money planning and sometime between then and now, it’s kind of died on the vine," said Elkins. "Other projects and other priorities took it’s place, but it remains probably one of the most dangerous 8 mile stretches of road in Western Kentucky.”
He says the county government doesn't have the money or the jurisdictional authority to widen the road.
"[U.S. 641] is a state and federal roadway and we can't intervene or do anything beside encourage improvements to it," said Elkins. "Funding had been in the plans [for more than 10 years] but actually this past year, the state legislature took all significant funding for improvements of that road out of the plan. I was very disappointed with that."
According to Kentucky State Police statistics, there have been 14 fatal accidents in the past ten years, including two separate accidents in the same day last week.
Calloway County Sheriff Bill Marcum says some of the accidents can be attributable to speeding or driver inattention, but he says the 8-mile stretch of road between Murray and Hazel is treacherous in itself.
“Of course that road base is years and years and years old and it’s a U.S. highway so it takes a lot of traffic on it, but the design of it and the shoulders has a big part to do with it," said Marcum. "They’ve widened it over the years but they didn’t do anything with the shoulders. Obviously if you ever drop off that shoulder and you try to overcorrect you usually end up over in the other lane or you lose control of your vehicle.”
Marcum says the road can be just as dangerous to local residents as it is to out of town travelers.
"Lot of people travel that road everyday and you can kinda get used to it in a sense of 'Well, I know where this rise is' or 'I know this is a no-passing zone but maybe I can still get around it'," said Marcum. "People get in a hurry and they just need to slow down when the weather's bad or if it's nighttime and watch out for drive-ways and other roads that come up to it. There are a lot of things on that section of road that people really need to watch."
Elkins says he plans to renew the resolution with "stronger terms" to send to state legislators at the next county fiscal court meeting.
Attempts were made to contact Rep. Kenny Imes and KYTC officials for comment but were unsuccessful as of Thursday afternoon.