Thefirst meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation was held on<Day> Thursday, June 9, 2005, at 9:00 AM, at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, North Fire Station. Senator Brett Guthrie and Representative Hubert Collins Co-chaired. The meeting was called to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Brett Guthrie, Co-Chair; Representative Hubert Collins, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr, Charlie Borders, David E Boswell, Robert J (Bob) Leeper, Richard "Dick" Roeding, Gary Tapp, and Damon Thayer; Representatives Eddie Ballard, Jim DeCesare, J R Gray, Melvin B Henley, Jimmie Lee, Paul H Marcotte, Charles E Meade, Russ Mobley, Lonnie Napier, Marie L Rader, Rick W Rand, Ancel Smith, Tommy Turner, and John Vincent.
Guests Testifying Before the Committee: William P. Robinson III, Chairman of the Board, Kenton County Airport Board; Judge Gary Moore, Boone County Judge/Executive; Mayor Tom Holocher, Ft. Mitchell; and Paul Steeley, Commissioner, Department of Aviation, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
LRC Staff: John Snyder, Jim Roberts, and Linda Hughes.
Chairman Guthrie opened the meeting by commenting that although many of the members do not travel through the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), they do understand the scope of what this airport does, not just for aviation, but also for this community. He said that everyone recognizes that when this community is growing it benefits the entire Commonwealth.
Chairman Guthrie drew the members attention to a written statement to the Committee from Senator Jim Bunning. In his statement, Senator Bunning offered his assistance in promoting the proposed tri-county regional airport in Gallatin County. An airport, he wrote, is much needed to help meet the current and future economic and population growth needs in this area.
The first item on the Committee's agenda was welcoming comments from Mr. William Robinson, Chairman, Kenton County Airport Board. Mr. Robinson welcomed the Committee members and stated that Northern Kentucky is currently experiencing a wonderful growth, in large part, due to the Kentucky General Assembly.
He stated that Toyota's decision to build hybrid automobiles in the area is just one example of Kentucky's growing prominence in the global market place. Mr. Robinson said that in the Northern Kentucky region there are more than 33 foreign manufacturers employing thousands of workers. He said that last year Kentucky exported more than $13 billion in goods, creating jobs for 53,000 residents, who contributed over $56 million in state and local taxes.
Mr. Robinson said that a recent study, commissioned by the airport, sets the annual impact of this airport at $4.5 billion dollars, annually. He said two-thirds of this impact is derived from the airport being a major hub for Delta Airlines. He also stated that CVG serves more United States non-stop designations than any other city in this country, with the exception of Atlanta and Minneapolis. Thanks to the General Assembly, Kentucky is recognized as a business friendly environment which helps support responsible growth. He thanked the members for helping the airlines with such things as the fuel surcharge cap. He said that keeping the jet fuel tax cap at $1 million per carrier benefits Delta's operations at CVG.
Chairman Guthrie stated that it is impressive that three counties, comprised of seventeen school districts, a university, and numerous cities, all work together towards a common purpose.
Chairman Collins said it is rare to see counties working together such as in Northern Kentucky, and he congratulated everyone's efforts.
Senator Borders noted that although he lives two hours away, CVG is his airport of choice. He stated that in the early 1990's the General Assembly authorized incentives for this area and that it is phenomenal to see how those incentives were utilized and expanded upon.
Senator Roeding commented that one example of the area's unity is that the members of CVG support the Tri-County Airport construction even knowing that Tri-County Airport officials have identified approximately 75 aircraft that will move to the Tri-County Airport once completed. Senator Roeding further stated that there are only around eight hubs in the country and Kentucky has one of those hubs. He said that Kentucky should be proud of this accomplishment and work to further promote this hub, especially when other airlines are considering closing hubs for economical reasons.
Mr. Robinson said that if there is a secret to the area's success it is the public-private partnership between the political leadership, i.e., the Kentucky General Assembly, the three county judges (Judges Dress, Moore, and Pendery) and the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, who all work together as a community and not as competing entities, for collective success. He said, in Northern Kentucky everyone works together and no one is concern with who gets the credit. This combination, he said, of public-private effort has served this area well and should continue to do so in the future.
The next item on the Committee's agenda was highway needs in Northern Kentucky, discussed by Judges Gary Moore, Boone County, and accompanied by Mayor Holocher, Ft. Mitchell and Chair of the Municipal Government League of Northern Kentucky. Judge Moore, who is the current Chair for OKI, the metropolitan planning organization for the Greater Cincinnati region, comprised of eight counties - three in Northern Kentucky, four in Ohio, and one in Indiana, discussed Six-Year Highway priority projects in Boone, Campbell, and Kenton Counties. There were a total of 17 projects discussed: seven in Boone County, and five each in Campbell and Kenton Counties. Judge Moore, on behalf of himself, Judge Steve Pendery of Campbell County, and Judge Ralph A. Drees of Kenton County, thanked the members for their support of these projects and stressed the need that these projects continue on course through the State's Six- Year Road Plan.
Judge Moore said that the counties in this area are some of the fastest growing counties in Kentucky, as well as in the nation. And, he said state generated revenues for the three counties is growing at a pace of almost $20 million a year.
Judge Moore asked that the General Assembly, as well as the Kentucky Congressional Delegation, continue to support the teamwork between the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Ohio Department of Transportation for the Brent Spence Bridge. He said that this national project is important for the area's future growth. He said to compete in economic development with other cities, such as Indianapolis, Nashville, Memphis, and Charlotte, ground transportation, as well as accessibility of the region, is a must.
Judge Moore drew the Committee's attention to Six-Year Road Plan Project 6-152.00. A $27.33 million project to straighten and widen a three mile section of KY 237 north of I-275 at North Bend Road. He noted that this is one of the most heavily traveled roads in Boone County. Currently there are 10 active subdivisions in this area with a total build-out of 4,230- homes. To date, 1,517 homes have been built, leaving an additional 2,713 residences to go. He said ten days ago a developer in the area requested an additional 400 homes be approved. Judge Moore said the county had to deny the request because the current road system could not handle the extra 400 homes. Judge Moore said that this is happening throughout the region. He mentioned that Boone County was the 69th largest growing county in the nation - growing by eleven people a day. Judge Moore noted that this growth was causing major challenges for Boone County's school districts and its highways.
Senator Boswell stated that he could look around at all the improvements that have occurred over the last several years in Northern Kentucky, and it was commendable how the counties work together for a common cause; but, he cautioned everyone that the Commonwealth was in dire financial straits. He said that the General Assembly took millions of dollars out of the Teachers' Retirement Fund, as well as the Underground Storage Tank Fund, and that that money has to be replaced. Senator Boswell noted that the General Assembly has a tremendous task ahead, just to be able to carry the state forward.
Mayor Holocher, Ft. Mitchell, took a few moments to talk about Municipal Road Aid. He introduced Clara Marconey, Mayor of the City of Crescent Springs; Mayor Diane Welling of City of Florence; and Mayor Paul Byres of Crescent View Hills. Mayor Holocher advocated a review of the Municipal Road Aid Formula, which has not been updated since 1948.
Chairman Guthrie informed Mayor Holocher that the General Assembly is aware that cities need more than the 7.7 percent allocation they currently receive from the Municipal Road Aid Formula. He said that legislators are contemplating ways to increase city allocations while not decreasing their respective county funds.
Chairman Collins stated that the Municipal Road Aid Formula is a topic that generates lengthy debates and due to this meeting's time constraints, one that could not be adequately discussed today. Chairman Collins invited Mayor Holocher to Frankfort to attend future Transportation Committee meetings to discuss the formula's dilemma.
The last item on the Committee's agenda was a brief overview of the role the Department of Aviation in the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, plans to play in developing aviation in the Commonwealth. Mr. Paul Steely, Commissioner, Department of Aviation, stated that his goal is to make aviation a stronger entity throughout the state. He said there are approximately 120,000 jobs attributable to aviation in Kentucky, with indirect jobs, from the Toyota Plant and other plants in Louisville and Somerset not even considered in that 120,000 equation. And he said, everyone knows that Toyota, and other large manufacturing plants, would not be in Kentucky if Kentucky did not have a viable aviation system in place.
Mr. Steely said that six important reasons why aviation is important to the state are: emergency medical care, organ transplant operation, tourism, law enforcement, recreation, and enhances opportunities for industrial recruiting. He noted that all of these reasons are important to the quality of life in Kentucky.
Mr. Steely said that the National Aviation and Space Agency (NASA), as well as the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), both state that over the next few years there will be a major shift in the way people travel throughout the country. They report that that shift will be to smaller aircraft. Mr. Steely said that a new generation aircraft, referred to as "very light jets (VLJ)," will start production next year. The main investor in this company is Bill Gates, and the Chairman of the Board is the former Chairman of the Board of Ford Motor Company. Mr. Steely said that he felt that this company is going to do great things, and in fact already has the first three years' production sold out. These new jets are stated to be one-fourth the price of existing corporate jets. This means, Mr. Steely said, that Kentucky has to have its airports ready to handle additional jet traffic from its smaller companies that, up until now, could not afford owning or flying corporate jets.
Mr. Steely said that NASA is currently advocating air taxi service with smaller jets to the various 5,000 airstrips around the country that are currently underutilized. And, he said, Kentucky lays claim to a number of those underutilized airstrips.
Some of the things the new department is doing, Mr. Steely noted, was enhancing the current airports for safety and maintenance. He said there are 61 hard surface, public- use runways in Kentucky, with three new airports under construction: one in Marion/Crittenden County, one in Morehead/Rowan County, and another in Williamsburg/Whitley County. The Whitley County airport should be completed this year, with the other two completed within a year and a half. Mr. Steely also noted that there are two new airports in the development stage, one in Hawesville/Hancock County and the other in Gallatin County.
Heliports, Mr. Steely said, are another area the department is researching. He said that heliports play an important part in the present and future scheme of things, particularly in the emergency medical care area. Mr. Steely said that if he had his wish, there would be an airport in every county; however, that is impossible, but heliports, by virtue of their size, might not be an impossibility.
Mr. Steely said, in closing, that the department's main goal is to make Kentucky the most aviation-friendly state in the country. He stated that Kentucky's airports are economic magnets, which yield large value for the money invested, most of which is Federal dollars. Mr. Steely said that a favorite saying within the department is that "a mile of road will take you one mile, but a mile of runway will take you anywhere."
With no further business before the Committee, the meeting adjourned at 10:20 am. Following the meeting the members and staff were given a tour of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport grounds and radar facility.