Threat of losing federal funding dooms asphalt-paving in Kentucky

| 3/24/2006

An effort in the Kentucky House that would require using asphalt instead of concrete for interstate construction projects in the state appears to have hit a dead end.

Federal Highway Administration officials sent a letter earlier this month to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet members informing them that the provision added to the House budget “will jeopardize the federal-aid funding of all interstate projects in Kentucky,” The Courier-Journal in Louisville reported.

Rep. Rob Wilkey, chairman of the House budget subcommittee that initiated the change in Gov. Ernie Fletcher's proposed transportation budget, said the provision should be dropped if it would threaten the status of federal money.

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, also called for removing the provision.

The FHWA letter said that a requirement to use one type of surface for interstate projects would violate a federal regulation that specifies the surface must be selected on each project based on safety, durability and cost, The Courier-Journal reported.

Wilkey, D-Scottsville, said the asphalt requirement was added because it “seemed to be the preference” of the Transportation Cabinet and local governments.

He said the provision was added because drivers prefer traveling on smooth asphalt surfaces and because asphalt is less costly in the short term, which would allow the state to stretch its road dollars.

Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert said his cabinet never recommended the requirement. The concrete industry also opposed the effort.