FRANKFORT – State road and bridge projects totaling $4.58 billion are proposed in the 2016-2018 state Road Plan approved by the House budget committee on Tuesday.
The plan—found in House Bill 305, sponsored by House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford—would authorize 1,239 highway construction projects, including $996 million in state-funded projects and $2.23 billion in federally funded projects, from fiscal year 2016 through fiscal year 2018. Supporters say it would also reduce what budget experts called “over programming”—or projects included over budget—proposed in the Executive Branch version of the Road Plan from $1.63 billion to $797 million, according to committee testimony.
Key projects in the road plan include: $159 million in federal funds to continue the expansion of the Mountain Parkway, begun in 2014, and to plan an expansion of the parkway from Prestonsburg to Beckley, WV; funds to begin design on the upgrade of the Hal Rogers Parkway from Somerset to Hazard; funds for an interchange on I-65 in Bullitt County; funds to begin work to upgrade the Natcher Parkway to interstate standards between Owensboro and Bowling Green; preconstruction for a new I-69 bridge at Henderson; preconstruction work on the Heartland Parkway in Marion and Taylor counties; and funding to widen I-75 in Rockcastle County and I-64/I-75 in Fayette County.
Funding for the projects would be provided in HB 304, also sponsored by Rand, which also cleared committee. That bill would also provide funding for administration of the state Transportation Cabinet, state aviation projects, rail projects and other transportation needs across the Commonwealth.
Most if not all of the House Minority members on the committee voted against the bills. Rep. John Carney, R-Campbellsville, pointed to the proposed House Road Plan’s handling of funding for different stages of work on the Heartland Parkway as a reason for his dissent. The proposed House plan would authorize preconstruction on the parkway through Carney’s home county of Taylor in the next biennium but not construction.
“The people I represent I feel like have been left behind somewhat and that frustrates me a great deal,” said Carney. “…The people all over Kentucky deserve better.”
Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikesville, said funding for design for the Taylor County portion of the parkway project is included in the proposed House Road Plan for 2018, extending into the “out years”—or the last four years of the House’s proposed six-year road plan. The last four years extend from 2019 to 2022.
State law requires the General Assembly to adopt the last four years of the six-year road plan as a joint resolution, which has the force of law but is not included in the statutes. That legislation, House Joint Resolution 91, also sponsored by Rand, made it through the committee with HBs 304 and 305.
Both bills and the resolution now go to the House floor for consideration by all members.