Gov. Steve Beshear says that despite a lagging federal response to fixing the insolvent Federal Highway Trust Fund, the state will still pursue an expansion of Eastern Kentucky’s Mountain Parkway.
The governor says he hopes that the U.S. Senate will pass legislation passed by the House that will patch up the rapidly depleting fund through March.
“The Mountain Parkway project will continue as originally passed by the legislature in our transportation budget, and at least at this point, it’s not going to be affected adversely by any action or lack of action," Beshear said.
But the Mountain Parkway is slated to be largely paid for with federal highway reimbursement funds, and is a key component of the “Shaping Our Appalachian Region,” or SOAR, initiative championed by Beshear to revitalize the Eastern Kentucky economy.
The highway trust fund has been used to help states pay for road projects since the 1950s by collecting a gas tax, but it has spent more than it has taken in for nearly 20 years.
Congressional inaction threatening the solvency of the Federal Highway Trust Fund may cost Kentucky $185 million for projects, drastically changing how the state pays for road construction, Gov. Steve Beshear said Wednesday.
Beshear and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who was visiting the state, criticized Congress for inaction that will reduce the amount the highway trust fund reimburses states for roadwork by 28 percent, affecting upwards of 700,000 jobs nationwide.
"Simply put, if you drive on Kentucky's highways, or if your business depends upon our roads to move your workers, your goods, your supplies or your customers, you will see a negative impact," Beshear said.
Of the $185 million in jeopardy, $150 million will affect the widening of I-65 between Bowling Green and Elizabethtown, a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman said. The remaining $35 million is slated for "pavement rehabilitation" projects across the state.
Neither Beshear nor KYTC Secretary Mike Hancock offered a figure of how many road contracting jobs in Kentucky could be affected if Congress doesn't shore up the fund.
A stable of Kentucky lawmakers are learning how natural gas can be developed to meet the state’s transportation needs.
Industry experts briefed members of the committees on energy and natural resources at the Owensboro convention center Thursday on the viability of natural gas filling stations, which are currently limited across the state.
“It’s an important issue for Kentucky," said Republican Sen. Jared Carpenter, a co-chair of both committees. "Gas has become a major player, in providing energy sources for Kentucky, and that's why we wanted to come to Owensboro."
"One of our members, this is his home community, and they've got a beautiful facility, and they just worked hand-in-hand so we could hear a presentation from the gas association and learn more about what they're doing."
Natural gas is expected to comprise a larger share of the state’s energy sources in the future.
A report released by a state commission says Tennessee needs $38 billion between now and 2015 to improve public infrastructure. Released by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, the report shows what type of improvements are needed, from repairing roads and bridges to adding additional water lines and sewers.