Politics & Government

House road plan includes money for Leestown Road, Newtown Pike

FRANKFORT — The House is expected to vote Friday on a two-year, $3.5 billion road plan that includes money to widen Leestown Road and advance the Newtown Pike extension in Lexington. It also would authorize two new bridges in Louisville.

The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee approved three bills Thursday that included the state's two-year and four-year road plans for state transportation projects.

Included in the Democratic House plan is $20 million — about $15 million in the current fiscal year — for widening Leestown Road from New Circle Road to Masterson Station Park. There also is additional money to extend Newtown Pike to Broadway, a project that has been in the state's road plan for years.

Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, noted that the plan includes money for bike paths along Rose Street near the University of Kentucky.

"That was great to see in there," Flood said. "It's been a long time since we've had some breathing room to have these type of community projects" in the road plan.

Much of Thursday's discussion in the committee involved the authorization for two new bridges in Louisville. The House budget calls for $50 million in bonds for those projects in addition to $230 million in previously authorized bonds. Drivers would have to pay tolls when crossing those bridges to pay for other costs.

Rep. Jim Wayne, D- Louisville, objected to the tolls, saying they would be an unfair tax on the working poor who must use the bridges to get to work.

But Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, and chairwoman of the transportation budget subcommittee, said decisions about how the bridges would be financed have already been made.

A vote in favor of the two-year plan was not a vote in favor of tolls, Overly said.

Wayne was the only legislator to vote against the transportation bills.

Other projects in the road plan include widening the Mountain Parkway to four lanes between Campton and Salyersville, and completing the widening of Interstate 65 to six lanes from Bowling Green to Elizabethtown at a cost of $491 million.

The bill also includes $30 million for planning of a new bridge over the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky.

Overly said the House plan would spend about $500 million to replace about 200 older bridges in the state.

Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said after Thursday's meeting that the Beshear administration had no major objections to the House transportation plan.

If the proposal is approved by the House as expected, it will go to the Republican-led Senate, which will make changes to reflect its priority projects. A committee of leaders from both chambers then would work out their differences before sending the bill to Beshear for his signature or veto.