Kentucky bills fail to garner support to create toll authorities

| 4/17/2008

Two failed efforts in the Kentucky Legislature sought to create state or local authorities for large-scale transportation projects.

The first bill called for the creation of a statewide agency that could use tolls to pay for so-called mega-projects. Sponsored by Rep. Ron Pasley, D-Winchester, the measure – HB689 – failed to receive consideration in the Senate before the session ended. The House previously approved it.

The bill would have created one state authority “to implement and facilitate the financing of major transportation projects and to hold ownership of projects.”

Mega-projects would have been defined as those costing at least $500 million, developed in coordination with the state’s six-year road plan.

The Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority could have issued bonds and created tolls for roads and bridges. Tolls would have been removed once the bonds were retired.

A separate effort that also died in the Senate would have helped local governments raise revenue locally to speed up major transportation projects.

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, offered legislation – SB7 – that authorized the creation of local public infrastructure authorities. Such entities would have been able to issue bonds, create tolls for roads and bridges, buy property, and enter into contracts with the federal government.

Projects mentioned that could have benefited from the legislation included two new bridges across the Ohio River in Louisville and the reworking of a downtown interchange. The bridges project is expected to take nearly two decades to complete at a cost of more than $4 billion, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

Kentucky would be responsible for footing $2.9 billion of the cost while Indiana would pay $1.1 billion.

Authorities would have been required to get approval from Kentucky lawmakers and the governor before proceeding with any plans. They also would have been included under the state’s open records law.

Supporters said the plan made sense because of the number of major road and bridge projects on the horizon that are beyond state or federal funding capacity. They also cited rising costs for construction materials, including asphalt.

Opponents said the legislation should apply to all forms of transportation, not solely mega-projects.

The legislative efforts can be brought back for consideration during the 2009 regular session.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Kentucky, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor