Road projects delayed because of federal shortfall

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 2, 2014 at 5:50 pm •  Published: July 2, 2014
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky transportation officials have delayed $185 million worth of road construction projects - including a project to widen a dangerous stretch of I-65 -because of a looming shortfall in the federal Highway Trust Fund.

The trust fund is the main way states pay for most major construction projects. The money comes from the federal gas tax that drivers pay at the pump - 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel fuel.

That gas tax has not increased since 1993, and the fund has slowly been running out of money. Congress has had to transfer money into the fund to keep it solvent.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx joined Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear at the state Capitol on Wednesday to urge federal lawmakers to fix the problem by Aug. 1 or else states will begin to see cuts of at least 28 percent. For Kentucky, that could mean losing more than $180 million per year.

Beshear said the state has already delayed projects as a precaution, including a project to widen a stretch of I-65 near Elizabethtown. The road has been the scene of several high profile fatal crashes, including a wreck that killed a groom returning from his wedding in 2011 and a crash that killed a family of six from Wisconsin in 2013.

"While we hope to go out for bid on them in August we're not sure that we're going to be able to and that is devastating," Beshear said. "Because of Congress' inaction, that project is on hold. And the risk to drivers because of safety concerns is growing every day."

Beshear and Foxx touted a plan that would tax the overseas profits of American corporations to help stop the shortfall in the trust fund.

"The country that is expecting 100 million more people by 2050, a country that will basically need to double its freight capacity over that same time, this is the opposite of what we should be doing as a country," Foxx said.

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