The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says it is working toward compliance with the federal REAL ID Act from 2005. The law sets 39 standards that must be met in order for a state-issued driver’s license to be accepted at certain high-security locations. Kentucky is one of 10 states currently not in compliance. That means Kentuckians trying to access restricted areas at federal facilities will have to present a passport or military ID beginning July 21.
Lisa Tolliver with the Transportation Cabinet says the state has completed a key step needed for an extension and is waiting to hear back from Homeland Security.
“What we’re doing is just working toward it. We don’t have a timeframe as to when we’ll be completely finished,” said Tolliver. “But once we get an extension – that will allow Kentucky driver’s licenses – they won’t be compliant, but they will be acceptable.”
As early as 2016, non-compliant driver’s licenses may prevent someone from boarding a commercial airliner unless they have a second form of ID. But that provision can't be enacted until after Homeland Security has evaluated states’ progress early next year.
In less than a month, states across the U.S. could see a 28 percent cut in funding for highway projects. Congress hasn’t been able to pass a bill that would shore up the federal Highway Trust Fund.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear says the commonwealth has already put $185 million dollars’ worth of construction projects on hold because of the stalemate in Washington.
“Believe it or not, when it comes to absorbing the impact of this funding crisis, Kentucky is in better shape than most of the other states,” said Gov. Beshear. “We have been and will continue to use state-generated transportation funds to mitigate, as much as possible, short-term impacts in our federal program.”
But, Beshear says among the construction now on the shelf is a project that would widen Interstate 65 between Bowling Green and Elizabethtown. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx joined Beshear at a press conference Wednesday in Frankfort, urging congress to act.
Update 4:50 p.m. Transportation Officials say all lanes of the Pennyrile Parkway have re-opened after a small plane crashed on the of the road Thursday afternoon. Two people aboard the plane were injured.
Twenty-year-old Benjamin Creed was treated at the scene, his father, 58-year-old Mike Creed was flown to a Nashville hospital. The Associated Press reports he is in serious condition.
Captain Chris Miller with the Christian County Sheriff's office says the plane attempted to make an emergency landing after taking off from the nearby Hopkinsville Airport.
“The plane had recently taken off from the local airport,” said Miller. “At some point it reached altitude, flight altitude, and then began to lose altitude. So the pilot made the decision to turn around and head back toward the airport. At some point during that journey, decided they weren’t going to make it back to the airport and decided to attempt and emergency landing on the parkway”
The doctors who perform yearly physical exams on long-haul truckers and bus drivers must now be certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Physical exams have long been a requirement to a commercial drivers’ license in Kentucky.
But Commissioner Rodney Kuhl with the Department of Vehicle Regulation at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says this extra step will ensure the safety of drivers and -- for bus drivers -- their passengers.
Warm, dry weather means plenty of road construction this afternoon.
In Hardin County, crews are repairing the KY583 bridge over the Bluegrass Parkway. Eastbound lanes of the Bluegrass are expected to see intermittent closures until 4 p.m. eastern, according to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
Meantime, in Bullitt County, the right lane of I-65 Northbound will be closed until 3 p.m. eastern between mile points 119 and 121.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is urging people to watch where they place yard signs – be they political in nature, or otherwise. The signs can only be placed on private property and not public right-of-ways.
District 4 spokesman Chris Jessie says they’re issuing the reminder as we head toward spring – a time when many residents hold yard sales or put out a sign supporting a political candidate involved in a primary.
“Sometimes I don’t think people really give thought to the fact that when they put an illegal sign out there, it can create a road hazard by blocking sight distance or maybe distracting drivers, and particularly at intersections,” said Jessie.
He says transportation cabinet crews have the authority to remove any sign placed in a public right-of-way. Confiscated signs will be held at the nearest county transportation center for 30 days.
This week’s snowfall and ice across parts of Kentucky are taking a toll on the Transportation Cabinet’s salt supply. Spokesman Chris Jessie says District 4 – which includes Hardin, Hart, Larue and eight other surrounding counties, has had to order reinforcements and borrow from the reserve stock in Louisville.
“We’re keeping close watch on the forecast through this upcoming week,” said Jessie. “So while we have salt on hand in our District 4 counties, if we continue to get these rounds of snow and ice as we’ve had over the past week, our situation will become more critical.”
He says crews are currently using salt “wisely”, but if supplies continue to diminish they may have to resort to conservation efforts. He says that means treating only main routes and those roadways with the highest volume of traffic.
“We want to be sure motorists understand this potential conservation method before we have to implement it,” said Jessie.
As of last week, the Transportation Cabinet said that crews had spread more than 220,000 tons of salt across the state this winter.
Transportation officials say 635 people died on Kentucky roadways last year, but that number is dramatically down from the year before. Not since 1949 – some 64 years ago – have Kentucky roads been so safe. It’s a drastic turnaround from 2012 when the state saw nearly 750 deaths on the roads.
Kentucky’s Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock says he’s encouraged by the reduction in fatalities but still “firmly believes that one fatality is too many”.
Hancock says troopers will continue to focus on encouraging seat belt use and reducing drunk driving, the two leading causes of traffic fatalities. In Tennessee, meantime, roadway fatalities fell by more than two percent last year.
A committee of Kentucky and Indiana officials has approved toll rates for the Ohio River Bridges Project after years of research and debate.
The bi-state tolling body unanimously approved toll rates Wednesday of one to twelve dollars, depending on vehicle size and mode of crossing.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock says despite some strong opposition to tolling, they’re necessary to pay for the new End East and downtown bridges and reworking of Spaghetti Junction.
“This is where we wound up after months and months of intense studies so we’re comfortable that it’s certainly not going to be palatable to everyone but it’s an environment in which we can be successful," said Hancock.
Two regional business owners addressed the tolling body Wednesday. Both requested the states consider a discount for large trucks that will bear the highest costs.
But Hancock says the set rates are comparable to national averages.
After delaying action on toll rates for the Ohio River Bridges Project last week, the bi-state committee in charge of setting rates will meet Wednesday to finish the job.
It was a surprise to Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock last week, when Indiana officials said they weren’t ready to approve tolls.
Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield said the delay shouldn’t be considered opposition to the suggested tolls rates, ranging from one to twelve dollars. He said it was just a matter of getting paperwork together.
Hancock was concerned though, and said Kentucky needs to set toll rates to find investors for its portion of the project’s cost.
“As interest rates go up obviously over a 35 year term of a financing deal that amounts to serious money, whether that’s millions I’m quite sure probably is," said Hancock.