Thesecond meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation was held on<Day> Tuesday, September 4, 2007, at 2:00 PM, at Gateway Community College-Boone Campus in Florence, Kentucky. Senator Brett Guthrie, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Brett Guthrie, Co-Chair; Representative Hubert Collins, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr, Dick Roeding, Damon Thayer, and David L. Williams; Representatives Eddie Ballard, Carolyn Belcher, Leslie Combs, Tim Couch, Jim DeCesare, J. R. Gray, Richard Henderson, Melvin B. Henley, Rick G. Nelson, Sal Santoro, Arnold Simpson, Ancel Smith, Jim Stewart III, and Tommy Turner.
Non-member legislators attending the meeting were: Senators Katie Stine and Jack Westwood; and Representatives Royce Adams, Jon Draud, and Adam Koenig.
Guests Appearing Before the Committee: Dr. G. E. Hughes, President/CEO, Gateway Community College; Doug Chambers, CEO for St. Elizabeth Medical Center, Northern Kentucky; Steve Stevens, President, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; Bill Butler, President/CEO, Corporex Companies, LLC; Gary Moore, Judge Executive Boone County; Darrell L. Link, Judge Executive, Grant County; Cindy Minter and Mark Rogge, Co-chairs of the Transportation Committee, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. And testifying for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet were: Mike Hancock, Chief of Staff; Marc Williams, Commissioner of Highways; and Tom Shoemaker, Executive Director, Highway District 6-Covington.
LRC Staff: John Snyder, Jim Roberts, Brandon White, and Linda Hughes.
Senator Roeding moved to approve the minutes for the Committee's June 5, 2007 meeting, as submitted. Representative Henley seconded the motion, which passed by voice vote.
Dr. Hughes welcomed the Committee to Gateway Community College and gave a brief overview of the facility. After his presentation he introduced Mr. Doug Chambers, CEO for St. Elizabeth Medical Center, who explained how the medical center's future expansion project would fit into the community and the training opportunities offered by Gateway. Mr. Chambers said that the project would begin in the fall 2007 and should be completed by the end of 2009.
Mr. Steve Stevens, President, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the Committee and thanked them, and the General Assembly, for their past and continued support for the Northern Kentucky area.
Next to speak was Mr. Bill Bulter, President/CEO, Corporex Companies, LLC, who discussed the future plans for a project known as the Oviation Complex. This residential and commercial development, as presently designed, is contingent upon the construction of an east-west connector between I-471 and I-75. Mr. Butler said that without the construction of this east-west connector the Oviation Complex would not be feasible at its current design. He asked the Committee to consider funding such a connector.
At this time Senator Williams addressed the committee regarding his 2008 legislation, BR 244 - Public Infrastructure Authorities. Senator Williams said that Kentucky's infrastructure needs to be examined. He said inflation, aging infrastructure, increasing numbers of projects, and lack of a viable federal funding mechanism is causing a funding crisis in this state. Nationally, the statistics show that in U.S. over the last 50 years the population has grown by 77%, the number of vehicles has increased by 271%, and the total miles driven has skyrocketed by 471%, to almost three trillion miles annually. Senator Williams noted that in his opinion, it was time for the General Assembly to explore alternative financing methods to construct and maintain highways.
Senator Williams said that BR 244 is the first attempt at finding ways to address Kentucky's infrastructure needs while assuring that Kentucky's taxpayers do not pay a disproportionate share of costs on projects of regional and national importance. He said that BR 244 allows local governments to address large public infrastructure needs by asking the Governor to create local public infrastructure authorities. The Governor would then create authorities by Executive Order, which would require General Assembly's approval. The Authorities would be empowered to undertake and operate large public infrastructure projects, as allowed by their charter. Senator Williams said that BR 244 calls for 7 member authorities (3 members appointed by the chief executive of the local government, subject to confirmation by local legislative bodies, and 4 members appointed by the Governor, subject to confirmation by the state Senate). The authorities would have the ability to issue revenue bonds to cover project costs; contract with public or private entities within or without Kentucky for design, construction, maintenance, and operation of their project; accept federal, state, or local grants or appropriations, and fix and periodically revise tolls. He said that this legislation creates alternative avenues of financing and does not preclude the state from undertaking the projects in a traditional manner.
In closing Senator Williams said that the state's transportation needs are significant and growing faster than traditional revenue streams and that congestion is costing the American public billion of dollars every year and literally choking the metropolitan centers. He said public-private partnerships offer tools state and local governments should explore to begin addressing the state's needs.
Discussing local Northern Kentucky road needs were Gary Moore, Judge Executive, Boone County and Darrell L. Link, Judge Executive, Grant County. Judge Moore, representing Boone, Kenton, and Campbell Counties, said that Northern Kentucky is growing by staggering numbers, and had a net gain of nearly 24,000 new jobs over the last ten years. Which, he said, is more than Jefferson and Fayette Counties combined.
Judge Moore said that in Boone County major projects have had to be denied due to the infrastructure - a Richwood Road industrial park project which would have offered two thousand additional jobs in the area had to be denied, as well as a subdivision project designed to house twelve over hundred homes. Other areas he mentioned that needed funding was an upgrade to the Richwood-Mt. Zion exit; the Mall Road/Florence City Center revitalization project; I-471-route 8 interstate interchange; Rt 9 extension from I-275 into Newport; Connector Road at Northern Kentucky University; Phase II of the Industrial Road (KY 1829) in Kenton County; 4th street bridge connection between Covington & Newport; and connector road from KY 17 to Mary Grubbs Highway; completion of Turkeyfoot Road (KY 1303); and the continued progress of KY 536 (east-west connector across all three counties).
Judge Link, representing Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Pendleton, and Owen Counties said that one of the most important projects is the $1,500,000 project for the Design Phase for reconstruction of Highway 22 in Owen County. He said that this project, which is in the Six-Year Highway Plan, begins at KY 227 and ends at KY 845, is important for the safety of the citizens who travel this road as well as for the economic development in Owen and Pendleton Counties. Judge Link said that Owen is the only county in Kentucky which does not have an interstate or railroad within its bounders, making it almost impossible for that county to compete for jobs and industry. He noted that 62% of Owen County's workforce travels out of the county to work.
Judge Link stated that other major highway concerns are the widening of US 27 to Falmouth; and US 42 in Carroll County, which has more industrial jobs per capita than any other county in the state. He said that the North American Steel Plant alone has more than 1800 trucks per week traveling over insufficient and unsafe infrastructure.
Cindy Minter and Mark Rogge, Co-chairs of the Transportation Committee, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, discussed infrastructure concerns on the Brent Spence Bridge. Ms. Minter said that Boone County was named as one of the top 20 growth counties in the nation with the rest of Northern Kentucky counties not far behind in growth. She said that truck travel on I-75, according to the FHWA, is about double the average of other freeways in the U.S. and in Ohio alone exceeds 5.6 billion vehicle miles annually.
Ms. Minter said that the Brent Spence bridge was built in 1962, costing $10 million, and estimated to accommodate 80,000 vehicles daily. Structural improvements on the bridge was done in 1985 and 1998, with a combine cost of $20.2 million, and increased the vehicle capacity to 135,000 daily. The bridge currently handles over 170,000 vehicles daily and has become both obsolete and dangerous to travel upon. The annual crash rate on the Brent Spence Bridge is 750 percent higher than the annual crash rate on Kentucky's interstates.
Mr. Rogge stated that in 2003 it was estimated that the cost of either improving or replacing the bridge was around $750 million, if construction began by 2010. That figure was re-evaluated in 2006 and the cost more than tripled the earlier estimate to approximately $2.5 million if the construction begins by 2015. He said that the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce urges the Transportation Committee and the Kentucky General Assembly to find a way to improve or replace the Brent Spence Bridge, either by normal channels or by bold and innovative means. Mr. Rogge said that the Commonwealth's public health and future depends upon its action and modernizing policies will allow Kentuckians to sustain and advance one of its most critical assets.
Marc Williams, Commissioner of Highways, Ketnucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), presented an overview of Northern Kentucky projects, 2007 highway program, and bridge inspection and maintenance program. Commissioner Williams said that 2006 represented a record KYTC construction year with $1.06 billion in new construction contracts. And for year-to-date in 2007 KYTC has equaled the 2006 record. The Northern Kentucky Six-Year Plan project authorizations have increased from $350 million in 2000 to $480 million in 2006, and the letting awards for District Six have also increased from $280 in years 2000-2003 to $478 in years 2004-todate.
Commissioner Williams said that major projects that were started and completed since 2004 in the four counties are: Bracken County-KY 19; Gallatin County-I-71/US 42; Owen County-KY 22; and Pendleton County the Brown-McKinneysburg Road. He said that Boone County has four separate major projects currently under Phase I Construction; Campbell County has two major projects; and Kenton County has three. Counties under Phase II Construction are Bracken County, Carroll County, Gallatin County Harrison County, and Robertson County all having one major project; and Grant County having two major projects under construction. And, Commissioner Williams said that there are nine major projects scheduled for 2007 lettings for Northern Kentucky.
Regarding the Brent Spence Bridge, Commissioner Williams said that the Planning Study Document Reviewed and accepted by Federal participating agencies occurred in January 2007 and that currently the state was performing Operational Analysis of Alternatives, as required by Federal Government, should be finalized by November 2007. He said that an updated costs analysis showed construction costs range between $2.09 billion and $3.03 billion - Kentucky's share would be $1.14 to $1.65 billion and Ohio's share would be $950 million to $1.38 billion since Kentucky's boundary encompasses most of the Ohio River.
Commissioner Williams said that under Governor Fletcher's direction KYTC conducted new field inspections of structurally deficient steel truss bridges to insure their safety. He said that KYTC is continuing to coordinate with FHWA on further areas of focus based upon the on-going investigation in Minneapolis due to one of its bridges collapsing. Commissioner Williams noted that Kentucky has 14,067 bridges of which 8,998 are owned by the state. The number of structurally deficient bridges is 1,356 (644 owned by the state), and the number of functionally obsolete bridges in Kentucky is 2,928 (of which the state owns 1,955).
In closing Commissioner Williams noted that the Federal Bridge Program allows for the replacement of approximately 30 bridges per year and the KYTC Bridge Maintenance Budget contains $20 million annually for inspections and routine bridge maintenance. He said that the Federal Program and KYTC's Bridge Maintenance Budget together does not adequately address the state's concern of deficient and obsolete bridges.
Prior to adjourning the meeting Senator Stine thanked the Committee for its interest in Northern Kentucky's infrastructure concerns. She stated that Northern Kentucky is not unique in its infrastructure problems, and that she knew that most of Kentucky's counties were experiencing the same type delimenias. Nonetheless, she said that she wanted to thank the Committee for taking the time to listen to this areas' major infrastructure concerns.
With no further business before the Committee the meeting adjourned at 4;10 p.m.