FRANKFORT — The House will vote on a $1.2 billion road plan Friday that focuses on moving forward hundreds of projects across the state instead of starting new ones.
The plan hinges on lawmakers locking in the current state gas tax of 21.1 cents a gallon at the pumps instead of letting it drop 4 cents April 1.
Fayette County would receive $125 million over the next two years under the proposal, which includes $11 million for the Newtown Pike extension and $10.3 million for improvements at and near the Kentucky Horse Park, key projects for the 2010 World Equestrian Games.
The plan uses money from various funding sources, including more than $400 million in federal stimulus dollars from President Obama's administration, $400 million in state bonds and an additional $231 million in federal bond money.
Under the plan, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, will see work resume on Mud Creek Road in Floyd County, his home county. Former Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher had halted the project. As attorney general, Stumbo prosecuted Fletcher in a state hiring scandal.
Meanwhile, a road project championed by Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, but nixed by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear early last year, is back on track.
Beshear's Transportation Cabinet had canceled an $11.9 million change order that expanded a $53.2 million project to widen and straighten Ky. 90 and Ky. 61 in Cumberland County, Williams' home county.
House and Senate leaders, along with Beshear and his officials, have been working mostly behind closed doors to hammer out an agreement on the plan, which outlines road projects for the next six years. The plan the legislature approved last year was ruled invalid by Franklin Circuit Court because it was not presented to Beshear on a timely basis.
Legislative leaders unveiled the new plan Thursday and put it on a fast track in the House. The House budget committee gave its blessing Thursday night, clearing the way for a vote Friday.
Two Republican panel members — Tommy Turner of Somerset and Scott Brinkman of Louisville — voted against freezing the gasoline tax rate, saying the money should go back to motorists.
The rate had been scheduled to drop 4 cents on April 1 because of the plunge in wholesale gas prices over the past six months. Each penny of that gas tax generates about $32 million a year.
Several panel members complained that they did not have sufficient time to study the road plan, but Stumbo predicted it will pass the 100-member House with close to 70 votes.
Many legislators applauded the road plan because of the way it uses federal stimulus dollars to move long-anticipated road projects forward.
House Majority Caucus Chairman Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, said the House and Senate were able to hash out a plan that did not include a long list of unfunded projects, which has been the case in years past.
Damron noted that Jessamine County received design money for the Interstate 75 connector, money for a by-pass around Nicholasville and $1.5 million for some reconstruction in downtown Nicholasville, which includes moving some utility lines underground.
In Fayette County, the plan includes $9 million for a runway extension at Blue Grass Airport, $9 million for the widening of Leestown Road near New Circle Road and Masterson Station Park and $3.8 million for the extension of Polo Club Boulevard at Deerhaven Lane and Todds Road.
"It's a good plan," said Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington. "Most of our road plans were really 20-year plans because there wasn't money to fund them."
Palumbo said she would support the freeze in the gas tax, noting that without it, the proposed road plan would not be possible. Palumbo said members were not told on Thursday how much their districts would be cut if the freeze in the gas tax is not approved.
"I believe we have to have roads for economic development and for safety reasons," Palumbo said.
The plan would use about 1.5 cents of the gas tax to pay annual debt costs of $400 million worth of state-issued bonds.
Stumbo said the Transportation Cabinet and the governor's office say the amount of debt used to finance the plan is manageable.
"Now is the time to sell bonds," Stumbo said. "You will get a pretty good bang for your dollar."