Bridges and barriers among the highlights of road, Transportation budget bills

05/29/2010 08:54 PM

UPDATED (11:25 p.m.)The General Assembly approved the state’s road plan and Transportation Cabinet budget in time to wrap up the special legislative session Saturday night, the Herald-Leader reported.

Soon after the final passage of the road plan, the House budget chairman, Rep. Rick Rand, a Bedford Democrat, issued a press release touting the inclusion of $62.5 million for Kentucky’s share of a new bridge across the Ohio River between Milton, Ky., and Madison, Ind.

The new bridge was one of dozens of projects in the $4.45 billion road project legislation that most lawmakers were given little time to review Saturday night before voting on it.

The Transportation Cabinet’s operations budget of about $5 billion and the two-year road plan were the last two major pieces of legislation still in play that the legislature hoped to approve on Saturday.

Leaders from both chambers came to an agreement on the road plan in the mid-afternoon.

“We’re going to make every effort to be done tonight,” said Rep. John Will Stacy, the House Democratic whip from West Liberty. “It’s now a manpower problem of the staff getting everything printed” so lawmakers can review it and vote on it before midnight.

Stacy said the House Democratic caucus members were pleased with the outline of a two-year road plan that lists the priority construction projects. Leaders described the plan to the Democrats in a closed-door meeting at 4 p.m. At around 5:30, House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook and Rep. Sannie Overly, the House transportation budget panel chairman, presented the overview to House Republicans for the first time.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said one problem that prolonged negotiations with the Senate was that the House had inadvertantly bumped some projects that were priorities for senators. Senate President David Williams, a Burkesville Republican, said Friday night that the matter was “complicated” and leaders from both chambers were trying to fix various mistakes made by both sides.

Among the potential highlights of a draft of the Transportation Cabinet’s budget was a provision that would authorize the cabinet to build a barrier along a stretch of I-65 in Hart County in which a tractor trailer truck crossed the median and slammed into a church van killing 11 in March.

A draft of the provision — which was pushed by Sen. Carroll Gibson, a Republican from Leitchfield — said the cabinet can begin to plan “a concrete barrier wall along the inside shoulder of I-65 in Hart County to serve as a protection device to prevent cross-median incidents.”

“If that goes through, that will probably be the best thing we do up here — or at least make this worthwhile,” said Rep. Dwight Butler, a Republican from Harned.

Lawmakers had hoped to wrap-up the special session in five days. But unable to agree Friday night on the road plan and Transportation budget, the session spilled into Saturday. The session costs taxpayers $63,000 a day.

- Ryan Alessi

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