Rotary hears about need for transportation improvements

Published 10:06 am Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Danville Rotary

Juva Barber, Executive Director of Kentuckians for Better Transportation (KBT), briefed Rotarians on the economic impact of the state and locally controlled airports, river ports and related industries, public transit, and public highway systems on December 1, 2017.  KBT is a multimodal trade association that advocates for better planning and maintenance of Kentucky’s transportation networks.

Email newsletter signup

Juva began her presentation by saying that the economic impact of the combined systems of transport bring over $500,000,000,000 into the state annually.  To give her audience a better sense of that huge number, Juva said, “it represents the equivalent of $113,000 per man, woman and child in the state.”  She made that number even more astounding by saying it is expected to grow by 40% by 2045.

That amazing dollar total is provided through the state’s 80,000 miles of roads, 14,000 bridges, 59 airports, and 26,000 miles of railroad tracks and 1300 miles of inland waterways.  Collectively it provides Kentuckian’s their food, sustains their healthcare services, and gives access to recreation and entertainment activities.  It gets individuals to and from their jobs, and travel for  a wide variety of activities.  The transportation network also gets materials to Kentucky companies and distributes their products to customers within the state and across the nation.  

For example, Barber said UPS helps Kentucky with its rank of 3rd in the nation for transport of freight (largely through our airports).  She also took note of Georgetown’s Camry manufacturing plants use of the system to receive parts from around the country and to deliver over two cars per minute on two shifts per day throughout the U.S..  Using those two companies, as example, Barber made the point that all the companies located in Kentucky, or those that will locate here in the future, would not be here without the diversity and capacity of the state’s transportation systems.  

Switching gears from her role of educating Kentuckians about the importance of Kentucky’s transportation networks, Ms. Barger began to address the need to better fund the maintenance of the transportation networks, and to plan for the forecasted growth.  To get the audience’s attention, Juva explained that the current backlog of needed repairs and routine maintenance of the state’s roadways is over $1B.  Beyond catching up on the current backlog, another $200,000 more annually is required to adequately fund the maintenance or the existing roads and bridges.  

That figure is only for the 27,000 miles of the total 80,000 miles of roadways that the state maintains.  Of the 14,000 bridges in the state, about 11,000 are “structurally deficient.  They are not “unsafe” but without maintenance their capacities will have to be reduced.  In addition there are 70 bridges that are closed now, for lack of required maintenance.  When the capacities are reduced or eliminated, the impact is that additional costs and delays are required in utilizing alternative routes or transport systems.  If you are a business, your competitive position and profits can be affected.  If you are an individual, and the ambulance or fire truck is delayed getting to you, it can have life altering consequences.

The roadways are the part of the transportation systems that most people are familiar with, and the most expensive to develop and maintain, but they are not the only system that is underfunded.  On the 80,000 miles of railroad tracks, 2005 crossing, are required to permit vehicles to cross over the tracks.  In several of those crossing need to be closed and major repairs made.

Those 1300 miles of inland waterway are served by eight ports.  They are the primary means of getting the farmers’ grain, and other products to out-of-state customers.  Those ports have hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred construction and repair needs to remain competitive.  If Kentucky does not invest in those improvements, the business will go to the suppliers on the other side of the river.  That means Ohio, Indiana, Missouri or Tennessee will get the economic benefits.

Kentucky’s number one export is aviation and airspace related products.  Most people are aware of the six commercial airports and their importance to the state’s economy.  What is not widely understood is the importance of the remaining 53 private aviation airports.  As an example, it is these airports that site selection people use to assess the merit of Boyle County’s fit with their selection criteria.  The first thing they see is the local airport.  Site selection prospects are not favorably improved by the $50 million dollars of deferred maintenance of these airports.

“My point is we have challenges that we need to address.”  She went on to say that Kentucky cannot deliver on the commitments it has made and continues to make to industrial and commercial companies, unless it better funds the maintenance and improvements that are needed to remain competitive.