By Jacqueline Pitts
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
Kentucky has continually struggled to ensure there is enough money to maintain, repair, and build new infrastructure across the state in recent years. Rep. Sal Santoro filed a resolution last week to urge his fellow lawmakers to take action on this issue in the 2021 session of the General Assembly.
In an interview with The Bottom Line, Santoro said he decided to go ahead and file the resolution because he started looking at the numbers of the road fund, especially as COVID-19 has impacted travel and revenues. He said he wants to get this conversation started sooner than later before legislators return to Frankfort in January and many new members take office because if something is not done to address the issue, the state has very few options.
“We are so underfunded that it is remarkable transportation is keeping up. Our funding has dropped about $200 million a year since 2015 so actually, we are always in the hole and we can’t get out of it. So, I filed the resolution because I started looking at our transportation. You know, we have 27,620 miles of roadway we have to take care of and 14,000 bridges. We don’t have the funding to take care of this,” Santoro said.
Santoro emphasized the gas tax is actually really a “consumption fee” as it is the only tax Kentuckians pay where they can see where the money is going and get usage out of it. He said he plans to file a bill to address transportation funding again in 2021 especially as the General Assembly will have to deal with the Road Fund budget which has continued to see declining revenues.
Another huge transportation issue facing the state is the closure of the Brent Spence Bridge connecting northern Kentucky and Cincinnati. Santoro, who represents the 60th House District in northern Kentucky, applauded the work of Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray on the issue and noted the federal government has allotted $15 million for the repair of the bridge.
“That bridge needs to be repaired. I am hoping this is fixed sooner rather than later. My citizens and the citizens of the commonwealth and people from all across the United States are very inconvenienced at this time,” Santoro said. “This bridge we know is very, very important. 3 percent of the gross national product goes across that bridge and we also know that hazardous material goes across that bridge so we’ve really got to maintain it.”