Kentucky's recently-passed $8.5 billion 2018 highway plan aims to “prioritize spending” on 1,400 projects including work on 1,000 bridges, improvements to 5,000 mi. of pavement, road widening, reconstruction of existing roads and construction of new routes and interchanges.
The Bluegrass state's six-year plan also includes $4.6 billion for mobility and safety projects, $2.3 billion for bridge and pavement repairs, $1 billion in federally-dedicated programs and $600 million for federal GARVEE debt service payments.
Near-term, Kentucky plans to spend $2.68 billion over the next two years on nearly 400 bridge repairs and replacements, 1,275 lane mi. of pavement improvements and 230 mobility and safety projects. That near-term effort will be enhanced by the recent passage of House Bill 385, which expands the previous design-bid project limit from $30 million to $300 million, along with the use of the Bluegrass state's new Strategic Highway Investment Formula for Tomorrow or “SHIFT” process for prioritizing federal and state funding for specific infrastructure projects.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) explained that the new SHIFT formula will use “quantitative measures” such as crash rates, traffic congestion levels, economic growth and cost-benefit ratios — along with input from local transportation leaders — to rank 1,100 highway projects.
Additionally, the KYTC said it is already starting the 18-month SHIFT prioritization process for its 2020 highway plan — a plan due to be presented to Kentucky's state legislature in January of that year — with local input from transportation leaders remaining a “core component” of the process while other “weights and scores” may be refined going forward.
The cabinet added that it also plans to remove more than $5 billion in what it called “over-programming” for the next six-year period, which means removing projects that do not have available funds to cover their cost. KYTC Secretary Greg Thomas pointed out that state lawmakers still added about $1.8 billion in highway projects that exceeds the funding available within the new six-year plan.
“We can't count on Washington to provide more money to address these transportation challenges,” he explained. “As we move into the summer construction season, we have to closely monitor our cash balance due to a significant number of projects in the pipeline, as well as substantial debt payments the cabinet owes beginning in June. Our top priorities will be limited to projects that improve safety, repair bridges and pavement and support job growth.”