Kentucky lawmakers want accountability in toll legislation

| 2/21/2008

A bill in the Kentucky Senate Committee on Transportation would allow local public infrastructure authorities to issue bonds, implement tolling for new roads and bridges and enter into contracts with the federal government.

But even the sponsor of the bill, Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, says it may not pass exactly as it was introduced.

Williams sponsored the bill – SB7 – to generate ideas for paying for the Ohio River Bridges Project near Louisville.

The bill would require local or regional authorities to get approval from state lawmakers and the governor before proceeding with any construction or tolling plans. Bill language states that all transactions and meetings would fall under the state’s open records laws.

Another lawmaker, Sen. Tim Shaughnessy, D-Louisville, filed four amendments to the bill early this month to set parameters and require accountability through elected officials.

One Shaughnessy amendment would require local authorities to have eight members with four members provided by the city of Louisville and state government.

Another amendment would require a sunset on the tolls 30 days after the bonds for projects are paid off. Kentucky has a history of retiring tolls once projects are paid off.

The Ohio River Bridges Project consists of three elements: A new bridge connecting downtown Louisville to southern Indiana; a new east-west bridge 8 miles from downtown; and, the reconstruction of the interchange involving Interstates 64, 65 and 71.

The Federal Highway Administration approved the bridges project in 2003 but officials say the state of Kentucky lacks funding without the ability for the Louisville Metro Council to issue bonds.

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

– By David Tanner, staff writer