Frankfort Local News

Kentucky House Reignites Bridge Tolling Debate

The prospect of bridge tolls is once again dominating the discussion of an infrastructure bill in the Kentucky General Assembly.

The House Budget Committee passed a road plan funding bill today. But before voting, lawmakers questioned the need for tolls on bridges in Louisville and Northern Kentucky.

Committee members asked whether the Sherman Minton Bridge in Louisville would be tolled to help fund new spans downtown and in the city’s east end. Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock says that was discussed, but it’s unlikely.

Frankfort Local News

Senate Makes More Changes to Road Plan

The Kentucky state Senate has approved two and four year road plans that have major differences with the House versions.

The biggest difference is with the Louisville bridges project.

Combined, the plans will fund the Ohio River Bridges Project in Louisville with bonds for two years, then federal highway funds for the following four years. That’s a change from the House plan, which calls for highway funds to be used for all six years.

With only a few days until the legislature adjourns for a veto period, time is running out for both chambers to approve the same road plans.

“Well it’s gonna be a change, but I’m confident we’ll get it done in a timely manner so we can press on,” says Senator Ernie Harris, who chairs the Transportation Committee.

Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock expressed concerns about the two-year bond funding for the bridges project, but he says he’s happy the Senate returns to highway funds for the remaining four years.

“We recommended of course that we use interstate maintenance and highway funds straight up in the upcoming biennium and the Senate had recommended the use of Garvey bonds and either way the project is moves forward and we’re very pleased with that,” he says.

Lawmakers have roughly two days to agree on a road plan and pass it in both chambers if they want to preserve the power to override any potential vetoes.

Local News

Officials Stress Need to Work Together in Wake of Sherman Minton Closure

Engineers and highway workers took elected officials on a tour of the Sherman Minton Bridge today to brief them on the span’s structural problems. The bridge was closed a week ago after a crack was discovered.

Mayor Greg Fischer, Senator Mitch McConnell, Representatives John Yarmuth and Todd Young were there, along with Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock.

All emphasized the need to work together, across state and party lines, to deal with the regional issues caused by the Sherman Minton Bridge closure.

Congressman John Yarmuth says the country can’t ignore its infrastructure.

“To me, situations like these, this isn’t elected surgery,” he said. “This is essentially a life-threatening situation in terms of regional commerce. So we have to do this, and there are thousands of situations like this around the country.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says the state has several bridges that need immediate repair, but he wouldn’t elaborate on whether the recently-proposed jobs bill by President Obama would address these critical infrastructure problems.

“I don’t want to get into an assessment of the President’s most recent stimulus suggestion,” McConnell said. “We’ll be assessing that and taking a look at it. I don’t rule all of that out or all of that in. What I can tell you is that the issue of roads and bridges are not partisan in Washington.”

All stressed that the Sherman Minton Bridge is not connected to the Ohio River Bridges project, and the Sherman Minton will be fixed regardless of the outcome of Louisville’s other proposed bridges.

None of the men would describe the damage they’d seen below the bridge, saying only that there were more issues than previously thought. A report is expected in the next few weeks on the Sherman Minton’s prognosis.