Northern Kentucky infrastructure improvements and getting land shovel-ready essential for continued growth topics of discussion

07/18/2017 03:14 PM

ERLANGER — Opportunities and challenges with northern Kentucky infrastructure was the subject of the monthly Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Eggs ‘N Issues breakfast, and a lot of that discussion focused on transportation challenges and how those can affect business growth in the region.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 6 Chief Engineer Bob Yeager warned that while there are a lot of transportation needs in the region, knowing where the funding is coming from will be essential for the projects to be completed.

“If we don’t do something soon about where the money comes from, we’ll only be in the maintenance business. We won’t be building any new infrastructure, we’ll have to make do with what we got. We have to take care of what we have first,” Yeager said.

Yeager pointed out the cabinet’s “Pause 50” plan, which has been implemented to restore funding back to normal operating levels by slowing or delaying the starts of new projects so that the agency can pay current expenditures, recoup lost revenue and rebuild the funding base.

Based on the cabinet’s cash management plan, it strives to have a balance of at least $100 million at any given time. The last time the cash balance neared zero was in 2004, when it was approximately $30 million.

“We started no new projects for this whole past year, and then we said because of all of the obligations that we have, we have about $50 million to spend this year, starting in July for the next fiscal year into ’18,” Yeager said. “The ‘Pause 50’ gives us a chance to develop our plan to move forward to the future.”

Yeager also pointed to another road program instituted by Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration called Strategic Highway Investment Formula for Tomorrow, which prioritizes transportation dollars to create a more balanced, data-driven plan to assess the benefits of planned future projects and compare them to each another.

SHIFT allows policymakers to see just how far down the priority list limited dollars will go and which other projects could be funded if additional money is generated.

“The Transportation Cabinet is charged with putting together a program of projects that meet the needs based on the money that we think we’re going to get,” Yeager said. “So we’re going to have roads in the six-year plan that’s being developed right now, only the number or roads that we think that we can build in the next 10 years.”

Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Corporation Senior Vice President Wade Williams says that another challenge the region faces is finding shovel-ready land for new businesses to start construction immediately.

“We’ve taken a look at every parcel in Kenton County and put it through a funnel looking at it’s proximity to infrastructure, roads, bridges, water, sewer, and that analysis resulted in essentially zero sites that are shovel-ready in Kenton County,” Williams said.

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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