(The Center Square) – Kentucky’s infrastructure received a C-minus grade from the White House, which is looking to spend more than $2 trillion across the country to improve the country’s roadways, electrical grid, waterlines and access to broadband.
State leaders have taken steps to address some of these issues through the funding Kentucky will receive from the American Rescue Plan. That includes extending broadband lines to areas currently unserved and underserved as well as building new water lines in rural communities. Those measures were passed in the last days of the General Assembly session, which ended March 30.
But one issue that did not get addressed before the session concluded was an increase in the state’s gas tax. Chambers of Commerce and local leaders urged the state legislature to pass an increase that would have then put more money into the Kentucky road fund.
However, on KET’s Kentucky Tonight Monday, Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said the time wasn’t right and the votes weren’t there for an increase. Part of Thayer’s concern stemmed from the increase in gas prices in recent weeks.
“I think as we come out of the pandemic, into what I hope to see is an economic recovery, I don't think sending a message to the working people of Kentucky that we're going to raise your gas tax right now, when gas prices are going up and there's economic uncertainty, I don't think it was the right choice to make,” Thayer said.
He added that there’s $2 billion dollars in the fund, which will still go toward filling potholes and making other repairs.
But according to the White House’s report card, there’s some major issues facing the state’s roads. It stated there are 1,033 bridges and more than 1,322 highway miles of roads listed in poor condition.
And while Kentuckians may not pay as much in taxes at the pump as neighboring states, drivers pay for it in other ways. According to the White House, the average Kentuckian driver faces an additional $444 in annual expenses for driving on poor roads.
Under Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plan, the federal government plans to spend more than $600 billion to bolster the country’s transportation system, including $115 billion for roads and bridges.
Among the Kentucky projects that could get funding if the Jobs Plan passes is the Brent Spence Bridge connecting northern Kentucky to Cincinnati. It’s been estimated that a new bridge would cost $2.6 billion.