MURRAY — Throughout the various phases of the expansion of U.S. 641 South in Calloway County, at least  one comment always seems to be heard that is along the lines of, “I never thought I’d live long enough to see this.”

The latest of those landmark times came Monday when Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced that work on the final and longest stretch of the project should begin on or about March 1. This will consist of  clearing trees and brush, and demolishing structures within the construction corridor, said Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 1 Chief Engineer Kyle Poat.

Work on the first mile of the four-lane expansion between Murray and the Tennessee state line at Hazel has resulted in that portion almost being completed.  That work has been ongoing for about the past two years.

“It’s getting more real every day it seems,” said Calloway County Judge-Executive Kenny Imes, who confirmed that there is evidence of the pending work. “Last week, I was driving on Tom Taylor Trail (just south of Murray) and I noticed some heavy equipment had been set up about a half mile off (641 South). I was going to check on Martin Chapel Road, but I saw this and it kind of dawned on me that we had received a notice from the transportation office in Paducah about  more work coming for 641. So I made a call to Paducah and they said, yes, that’s what that was about.

“I know (KYTC) has bought up a lot of right of way and I did notice that it looked like some houses that are in that stretch don’t have people living in them anymore. So it looks like it’s happening.”

Imes also said that he has been impressed with how fast the first mile between Glendale Road near the city limits and the Clarks River has gone from two lanes to almost ready for four-lane traffic. 

“I would think it will be the same kind of thing with the rest of the road from here on. You may not think a lot is happening but, then, you’ll see it and realize a whole lot has happened,”  Imes said. “You wouldn’t think something that’s only about seven miles long would require so much work, but it has and a lot of people have put a lot of time into this.

“It’s like that, pretty  much, I think with any project. I remember it was like that in the 1970s as we were watching the 641 North take shape in the northern part of the county. One thing I have noticed, though, is that it looks like they’re doing a good job of switching the lanes when it comes time to do work on a stretch. They’re able to keep the traffic flowing.

“This is great news for Kentuckians in the region. In terms of safety and efficiency, this long-awaited project will be a pronounced improvement for the citizens of Calloway County and the flow of commerce in the Jackson Purchase,” Beshear said in a news release.

KYTC District 1 Public Information Officer Keith Todd said the project contract amounts to $37.6 million. He said Jim Smith Contracting, of Grand Rivers, is the prime contractor for the project, which was jump-started in December 2018 with a $23 million federal Better Using Investments to Leverage Development grant awarded to the Calloway County Fiscal Court. 

Todd and Poat emphasize that the March 1 start date for the next phase of work will depend on weather. However, they did add that construction signage on side roads will be the first indication that work is about to start.

They also said that most of the work during the 2021 construction season will be off-road, involving construction of culverts and bridges and other activities that will have no impact on traffic along existing U.S. 641.