Kentucky bill would expand local authority for road funds

| 1/25/2008

The leading Senate lawmaker in Kentucky has a plan to help local governments raise revenue locally to speed up major transportation projects.

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

Projects mentioned that would benefit from the legislation include two new bridges across the Ohio River in Louisville, KY, 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.

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

Supporters say the plan should pick up support throughout the state because of the number of major road and bridge projects on the horizon that are beyond state or federal funding capacity. They also cite rising costs for construction materials, including asphalt.

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

Gov. Steve Beshear said the proposal is worth inclusion in discussions about tapping innovative solutions for transportation funding. However, the Democratic governor is on record as being opposed to the use of tolls.

The bill – SB7 – is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Kentucky in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor