Kentucky lawmakers allot $4.1 billion for roads, bridges

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/17/2014

State lawmakers reached agreement in the final hours of the regular session on a $4.1 billion road and bridge work plan.

A conference committee made up of select members from both chambers worked out the details on the six-year maintenance and construction plan, which contains two years’ worth of money for projects that include the Mountain Parkway and the Brent Spence Bridge.

House lawmakers later voted 71-26 to endorse the bill after the Senate voted 37-1 in favor of the final version. The votes cleared the way for HB237 to advance to Gov. Steve Beshear for his signature or veto.

Also approved by lawmakers was the two-year transportation budget that will pay for road and bridge projects. Dropped from the bill, HB236, was a House Democrat-led provision to raise the state’s excise tax rates to 32.3 cents for gas and 29.3 cents for diesel.

Thanks to partially tying the state’s tax rates to the average wholesale price of fuel, changes in the excise tax for gas and diesel are automatic. In January, the tax was reduced 1.5 cents per gallon to 30.8 cents for gas and 29.3 cents for diesel.

The Democratic governor supported the change that would raise about $107 million during the next two years.

Republicans in the House and GOP-led Senate balked at the plan, saying that increasing the tax rate would be reneging on a promise made to voters five years ago.

Projects that would benefit from the funding plan include the Mountain Parkway widening project in eastern Kentucky. The project is slated to receive $123 million over the next two years.

The Ohio River Bridges Project is in line to get $80.5 million. Another $35 million would be allotted for a new interchange on Interstate 75 next to a Toyota factory.

Nearly $29 million would be used to continue planning the replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge in northern Kentucky. The bridge carries Interstates 71 and 75 into Cincinnati.

An attempt this year to authorize a public-private partnership to complete the $2.6 billion replacement project was turned back by state lawmakers.