KY Department of Highways Seeking New Home for Happy Chandler Monument
Madisonville, Kentucky – The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Department of Highways is seeking a new home for Henderson County’s Happy Chandler Monument. The U.S. 60 Corridor Safety Task Team has recommended the large stone monument on the shoulder of U.S. 60 just north of Corydon be moved as part of a list of safety improvements. Highway officials are seeking public input to help find an appropriate location.
The U.S. 60 Corridor Safety Task Team is a multi-disciplinary effort that includes 12 highway corridors across Kentucky attempting to reduce traffic fatalities. The statewide effort by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has helped lower the state’s highway death rate by 31 compared with the same date a year ago.
“Our goal is pure and simple, improve safety and save lives,” said team coordinator Gina Boaz. “A big part of that effort is getting people to buckle their safety belt every time they get into a vehicle.”
A transportation planner for the Green River Area Development District, Boaz led a team of about a half dozen task team members and engineers on a traffic survey tour along U.S. 60 through Hancock, Daviess, Henderson and Union Counties.
“The team found a few places where the crash rate was significantly higher than the statewide average for similar roadways,” Boaz said. “However, a big part of reducing fatalities is changing human behavior. It’s about getting people to slow down, buckle up, pay attention, and avoid driving impaired by alcohol or drugs.”
As part of the effort, the team looked for “fixed objects” that could be a hazard to vehicles that might run off the road during a crash. That brought the large rock with attached plaque honoring the former Governor to the team’s attention.
“This is a stone monument 11 feet from the edge of the pavement. If someone runs off the road there it creates the potential for a fatality or major injury,” Boaz said.
The team asked Kentucky Department of Highways District Two Public Information Officer Keith Todd to research the monument and look into the possibility of moving it. He found the monument had been placed on the roadside sometime prior to 1960.
“I had the privileged of spending considerable time visiting with Happy Chandler in his later years, and collected a number of his humorous stories. He’s a Kentucky icon in every sense, so we want to assure that the monument is moved to a prominent place,” Todd observed.
Henderson County school officials expressed an interest in having it moved to the nearby A.B. Chandler Elementary School grounds. The City of Corydon has expressed interest in having it moved to the city’s Happy Chandler Park.
Congressman Ben Chandler, Happy Chandler’s grandson, has indicated that the A.B. Chandler Elementary School would be an appropriate location.
“The bottom line is that it should remain in a prominent place, just not along the roadside where it might be a traffic hazard,” Todd said. “Chief District Engineer Ted Merryman has directed us to seek community input on how and where it should be moved. We are also asking that a state historic marker be erected at the present site.”
The stone marker includes a plaque that reads, “Near this spot, July 14, 1898, Albert B. Chandler twice Governor of Kentucky was born. This illustory son of the Pennyrile also served as State Senator, Lt. Governor, United States Senator, and National Commissioner of Baseball. This marker placed by friends.” The rock is believed to be buried several feet in the ground. The visible portion is almost six feet tall, six feet wide at the base, more than a foot thick and estimated to weigh two tons or more.
The district two bridge maintenance crew has equipment capable of moving the rock. An evaluation of the stone found several cracks and that has put the process on hold pending additional evaluation. Billy Fox with Henry and Henry Monument Company of Marion and Henderson has offered to examine the stone in detail and provide a cost estimate for moving it.
Gina Boaz says moving the monument off the U.S. 60 right-of-way may seem like a small part of the U.S. 60 safety effort, but improving safety along the corridor is likely to include a lot of small things that add up to a safer road for everyone.