Ky. Senate approves slightly slimmer version of state road-building plan

jcheves@herald-leader.comMarch 26, 2014 

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Senate approved a slightly slimmer version of the two-year state road-building plan Wednesday, with fewer projects than the House road plan passed a week ago.

The Senate plan called for spending $3.67 billion on transportation projects over the next two years, while the House version of the bill would spend $3.92 billion. One reason for the difference: The Senate doesn't endorse the House's proposed 1.5 cent-a-gallon increase in the state's gas tax, which would boost the road fund.

The road plan cleared the Senate with 28 yes votes and 10 "pass" votes. No one voted against the bill.

The dueling road plans will join the differing state budget and revenue bills before a House-Senate conference committee that's trying to negotiate final versions of each measure no later than Monday, when the legislature is scheduled to recess for two weeks.

The Senate doesn't plan to change the House approach to widening and extending Eastern Kentucky's Mountain Parkway, said Senate Transportation chairman Ernie Harris, R-Crestwood. The project would get $123 million over the next two years, not the $252 million recommended by Gov. Steve Beshear, and it would take 10 years to complete, not the six years planned by Beshear. The final cost is estimated at $753 million.

Also, Beshear called for the parkway to be tolled to help pay for its improvement, but neither the House nor Senate plans include tolls. However, Harris said "nothing is set in concrete at this time."

"There is a lot of support for tolling the Mountain Parkway, especially from folks in that region," he said.

The House road plan held $161 million in projects for Fayette County, including continued work on the Newtown Pike extension and improvements to New Circle Road, Leestown Road, Clays Mill Road, Alumni Drive and Liberty Road/Todds Road. The Senate plan is similar and offers about $2.4 million less for Fayette County.

Some communities represented by Republican legislators saw their road and bridge projects dropped or delayed in the Democratic-led House plan. The Republican-led Senate turned that around, reinserting some projects in GOP districts at the expense of Democratic districts.

One notable example is Grant County in Northern Kentucky. The House recommended $1.3 million in projects for Grant County, omitting Beshear's request for $21.2 million to build a new I-75 interchange and improve Ky. 36 to accommodate heavier traffic to the proposed Ark Encounter religious theme park. But the Senate allocated $26.1 million for Grant County, including both of the improvement projects related to the Ark Encounter theme park.

John Cheves: (859) 231-3266. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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