Kentucky authorizes bridge-authority plan, toll option

| 7/10/2009

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has signed a bill into law that will 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 last month, the Kentucky Legislature approved a funding approach for major transportation initiatives – those that cost more than $500 million. The massive funding bill – HB3 – then moved to the governor’s desk where he recently signed it into law.

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

The legislation clears the way for the creation of state and local authorities to manage transportation projects. Both groups will be headed by Kentucky’s transportation secretary.

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

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.

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

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

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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