Western KY legislators pre-file bill to fund “mega” transportation projects

Two western Kentucky state senators pre-filed a bill Monday that would establish a statewide transportation authority with the ability to issue bonds and levy tolls on “mega” transportation projects with billion-dollar price tags. 

The bill filed by Sen. Dorsey Ridley, a Henderson Democrat, and Sen. Jerry Rhoads, a Madisonville Democrat, would create an 11-member Kentucky Public Infrastructure Authority to borrow the money needed to help finance these projects, including the proposed Interstate 69 bridge at Henderson that could cost $1.4 billion. 

“We’re acknowledging the fact that Kentucky’s roads and bridges are aging and we need some serious financial investment,” Ridley said. “It’s just an alternative funding mechanism that the (Kentucky) Transportation Cabinet will have for these mega-projects.”

The proposal follows debate during this year’s legislative session over competing proposals to help fund these projects with the anticipation of little significant financial help from the federal or state road funds in the near future.

Senate President David Williams, a Burkesville Republican, had offered a plan to create several, local infrastructure authorities around the state to borrow money and develop financing plans, including the possibilty of tolls, to pay for these projects that have traditionally been funded by the federal government. 

Rep. Don Pasley, a Winchester Democrat involved with the transportation budget negotiations this year, offered a different proposal that would have established a single authority to oversee financing for the state’s largest transportation projects. 

Neither proposal moved very far during the session. 

“I’m hopeful the Senate leadership will favorably consider this,” Rhoads said. “It just puts the mechanism in place to move these projects along with the planning and the funding.”

Williams declined to comment on the proposal offered by Ridley and Rhoads.

The bill already has a supporter in C-LINK, the group of chambers of commerce in northwestern Kentucky that has named the Interstate 69 projects as a top priority for the region. 

“We know that haivng a tolling option to help build a new Ohio River bridge as part of I-69 near Henderson is a way to move it from the planning stage to the driving stage,” C-LINK chair Nick Cambron said in a statement. 

Read more about the proposal in Tuesday’s Messenger-Inquirer.

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