Kentucky lawmakers approve bridge-authority plan, toll option

| 6/26/2009

A bill on its way to Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear would help the state pay for mega-transportation projects. It also opens the door to the use of tolls to pay for new bridges.

Meeting in special session, the Senate unanimously approved a funding approach for major transportation initiatives – those that cost more than $500 million. House lawmakers voted 86-10 to agree to changes. The votes cleared the path for the massive funding bill – HB3 – to the governor’s desk for his signature.

Projects that stand to benefit include the $4.1 billion Ohio River bridges between Louisville and Southern Indiana. Another project that would benefit is the reconfiguration of the interchange of Interstates 64, 65 and 71 in Louisville, known as Spaghetti Junction.

The legislation would create state and local authorities to manage transportation projects. Both groups would be headed by Kentucky’s transportation secretary.

A state authority would be created to help the state build and maintain bridges. The authority would be able to borrow money for projects without adding to the state’s overall debt. The bulk of the money would likely be repaid through tolls placed on the new bridges crossing the Ohio River. Tolls would be removed once the debt is retired.

For projects that involve Indiana, the local authority would include Hoosier members. Kentucky’s other neighbors would not be covered under the agreement.

Rep. Don Pasley, D-Winchester, said the bill’s passage is important because the state has upwards of $13 billion in projects with no way to pay for them. Others say the legislation could help the state secure additional federal funding for large-scale projects.

Truck driver and OOIDA Life Member Wayne Alexander of Versailles, KY, has multiple concerns about charging user fees to access the bridges.

“I don’t like the idea of toll bridges myself. Trucks shouldn’t have to pay it. Cars shouldn’t have to pay it. We pay enough taxes, but I guess they’re going to do what they want to do,” Alexander told Land Line.

Once tolls are put in place on the new bridges, Alexander cautions about the probability that nearby toll-free bridges could become off-limits to trucks to make sure the state can fleece more truckers.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Kentucky in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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