Thefourth meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation was held on<Day> Tuesday, October 6, 2009, at 6:00 PM, at the Eastern Kentucky Expo in Pikeville, Kentucky. Representative Hubert Collins, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Ernie Harris, Co-Chair; Representative Hubert Collins, Co-Chair; Senators David E. Boswell, Bob Leeper, John Schickel, and Gary Tapp; Representatives Eddie Ballard, Leslie Combs, Tim Couch, Jim DeCesare, Keith Hall, Richard Henderson, Lonnie Napier, Steve Riggs, Arnold Simpson, Ancel Smith, Fitz Steele, and Jim Stewart III.
Non-Member Legislators: Senators Dorsey Ridley, Ray Jones, and Johnny Ray Turner; Representatives Rocky Adkins, Jim Gooch, Fred Nesler, John Will Stacy, and Greg Stumbo.
Guests Appearing Before the Committee: Governor Paul E. Patton, President, Pikeville College; County Judge Executives: Wayne Rutherford (Pike County), Kelly Callahan (Martin County) and Bob Porter (Paintsville Mayor) on behalf of Johnson County, Jim Ward (Letcher County); Duell Sturgill, Chairman, Big Sandy Regional Airport Board, and William Hickman, III, Chairman, Pikeville/Pike County Airport Board; and Capt. Tim Lucas and Sgt. Derris Hedger, Kentucky State Police. Speaking for the Transportation Cabinet: Mike Hancock, Acting-Secretary, Steve Waddle, State Highway Engineer, and Kevin Damron, Chief Highway District Engineer, District 12.
LRC Staff: John Snyder, Brandon White, Dana Fugazzi, and Linda Hughes.
Before beginning the meeting, Chairman Collins asked members to identify themselves and the districts for which they represent. Following introductions, Chairman Collins recognized several individuals in the audience, including former representative and chair of the Transportation Committee Clayton Little.
Governor Paul E. Patton, President, Pikeville College, welcomed the Committee to Pikeville and gave a brief overview of the region.
Following Governor Patton’s presentation, several district officials discussed their respective local infrastructure needs. Those presentations are as follows:
Judge Wayne Rutherford, Pike County, said that the coal industry is the primary driving force of Pike County. He said that the county produces more natural gas and coal than any other county in the state, and stressed his displeasure that the region only recoups twelve percent of the Coal Severance Tax that comes to Frankfort.
Judge Rutherford stated that the completion of US 460 is vital for the region. Over 95 million cubic yards of material will be excavated to rebuild this highway, making it the most expensive highway ever undertaken in District 12. He stated that its completion will give the county an additional few thousand acres for development. He said the only way there is land for development in eastern Kentucky is from road construction or ridge-top development. He said that half of US 460 is constructed or under construction, and funds are required for the 20 percent state match to acquire the $200+ million federal dollars that is already in the pipeline waiting for the state’s 20 percent match.
Speaking on behalf of Johnson County Judge, Paintsville Mayor Bob Porter said US 23 is a busy highway that goes from four lanes down to two lanes which causes major traffic jams and is in need of additional turning lanes. Also, in order to have a second exist from downtown Paintsville, a two-mile section of KY 40 needs to be improved. That section is a winding road that is the main artery to and from the hospital emergency room and the largest industry park in the area, all within city limits. Improving the two miles on KY 40 and the bridge that is the only way in or out of the high school would greatly improve Paintsville. There is a problem on KY 40 at the Kraft Food Warehouse development. He stated that the 18 wheelers will experience difficulty turning into or out of the warehouse, due to Route 40’s narrow roadway.
Judge Jim Ward, Letcher County, informed the members of the ATV and hiking trails in Letcher County under construction. And he stated a new federal prison is in the development stages for Letcher County. He stated that the county has already identified four separate building sites in which the Federal Bureau of Prisons has to choose from.
As for transportation concerns in the area, Judge Ward said a turning lane is needed at the KY 15/KY 160 intersection, for safety purposes. And, there is a major concern for a narrow bridge on KY 931, which was built in 1950, that sees a lot of truck traffic. However, he said the most important projects for the region, in his estimate, are the completion of US 119 and US 460.
Judge Kelly Callahan, Martin County, said that he understood the state’s fiscal constraints and, rather than give the Committee a large wish list, he said that his county’s main concern is KY 645 (Inez-Warfield Road) to Morehead.
Acting Secretary Mike Hancock, State Highway Engineer Steve Waddle, and District 12 Chief Highway Engineer, Kevin Damron, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, discussed District 12’s construction projects with the Committee. Mr. Damron presented a slide show depicting major construction projects in the area. Secretary Hancock explained Kentucky’s Minnie Harold Coal Share Partnership, a partnership with West Virginia, Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky is the first of its kind type of arrangement that will benefit the region as well as the state.
Secretary Hancock discussed the development of Appalachian Highway Funds with the Committee. He said that even with the estimated $40 million Federal Appalachian Funds the state receives each year, it would take around 20 years to complete the 16.5 miles of US 460 and the 14.5 miles of US 119. The estimated cost to complete US 460 is $503 million and to complete US 119, $380 million. The Cabinet was limited in using toll credits to match Federal Funds by the 2005 Federal Highway Funding Bill passed by Congress. Secretary Hancock informed the members that the Cabinet has petitioned Congress requesting it be allowed to use its toll credits towards the state’s required 20 percent matching funds. No federal decision on this petition has been made to date. Even if the state were allowed to use toll credits, it would result in a twenty percent loss of purchasing power.
Representative Adkins stated that it was his understanding that the full amount of a state’s 20 percent matching funds was not required in any given one year, but rather the money could be divided amongst several years. Secretary Hancock stated that that was correct. Representative Adkins said that the Transportation Cabinet needed to develop a formula for the legislature stipulating the amount of money needed in a present and out years in order to utilize all federal moneys available to the state. He added that the formula should include state, congressional, as well as county amounts and timeframes. Secretary Hancock stated that it was the position of the Cabinet to utilize all available federal funds at all cost.
Representative Stumbo stated that there should be a plan in place whereby county judges could issue bonds for certain highways and pay for the bonds from the county’s coal severance funds. He noted the Mountain Parkway was about 40 years old with very little construction since its origin, and updating was required.
Representative Combs stated that if ridge top removal is allowed for the western and central parts of the state than it should also be allowed in eastern Kentucky as well. In her opinion, there was no difference between the two and she thought there should be a level playing field for construction purposes.
Duell Sturgill, Chairman, Big Sandy Regional Airport Board, and William Hickman, III, Chairman, Pikeville/Pike County Airport Board, discussed regional airport needs. Mr. Sturgill stated the Federal Aviation Agency is requiring the Big Sandy Regional Airport to add 300 feet to the end of its runway. He said the airport does not have $10 million to do the project; however, there is a local coal operator that owns the land and the equipment for this construction, and once completed would deed the land to the airport. Mr. Sturgill said that the problem is the Corps of Engineers will not allow a permit for the work and asked for the legislature’s and the Cabinet’s assistance in resolving this issue.
Mr. Hickman stated that he also needs to build an extension to his runway where dirt is needed and, if the state finds itself with an abundance of soil from excavating dirt during construction, then the Pikeville/Pike County Airport would be extremely interested in helping the state eliminate its dirt removal problem.
Capt. Tim Lucas and Sgt. Derris Hedger, Kentucky State Police, discussed the Committee’s concerns of CDL testing in the region. Local officials were concerned over the possibility of cuts backs that could affect the licensing of regional school bus drivers. Capt. Lucas assured the members that there are no financial cuts estimated for CDL testing in the regional.
With no further business before the Committee, the meeting adjourned at 8:20 p.m.