Under Bevin’s leadership, transportation cabinet celebrated mile-marking accomplishments

Published 10:16 am Thursday, December 12, 2019

By Greg Thomas

Guest Columnist

FRANKFORT — Name something that matters to you and I’ll tell you how transportation fits in. Every day, millions of Kentuckians rely on safe, reliable transportation systems to stay connected to the things they value most: school, work, hospitals, recreation, places of worship and family. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has made significant strides to deliver on our mission to safely connect the Commonwealth.

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We’ve celebrated many mile-marking accomplishments through our team’s drive to find efficiencies that stretch dollars and celebrate innovation without compromising quality.

In 2018, the General Assembly and Gov. Bevin passed the first six-year highway plan guided by SHIFT, our new data-driven project prioritization model to better balance spending and revenue. It significantly reduced over programming and led to one of the most balanced two-year spending plans in years.

Legislative changes paved the way for KYTC to aggressively pursue design-build contracting methods to deliver projects faster and save taxpayer dollars. Five major design-build projects are underway statewide, including I-Move Kentucky – Kentucky’s second-largest design-build project in history. This approach combines four priority projects into a single construction project, minimizing impacts on travelers by allowing for more coordinated traffic maintenance and cutting the construction timeline by three years compared to the traditional design-bid-build approach.

While keeping an eye toward future transportation needs, we’ve been laser-focused on taking care of what we have by tackling our backlog of deferred maintenance on roads, bridges and airports. Non-commercial airports have seen record investments in the last three years to improve the safety of our runways and attract more business travel. The biennium plan included record investments in bridge and pavement repairs across the state.

Bridging Kentucky is one of the nation’s most aggressive programs to ensure the safety and soundness of bridges. The $700 million initiative will restore 1,000 critical bridges in six years and remove weight restrictions preventing crossings by buses, emergency vehicles and trucks. Launching in 2018, 353 projects have been awarded as of October and more than 100 bridges have been restored.

We’re chipping away at the $1 billion paving backlog thanks to focused investments and collaborative partnerships at the local level. The biennium spending plan authorized 1,275 miles of pavement improvements to enhance the conditions of our roads. KYTC leadership toured the state to visit local officials from nearly all 120 counties to learn their most pressing transportation issues and offered aid to repave roads that on average see improvements once every 35 years.

Behind the scenes, we’ve modernized our technology to better serve Kentuckians. We launched KAVIS to provide a reliable point of sale solution used by county clerks for financial transactions and debuted online portals, like MyCDL, and automated the overweight and over dimensional permitting process, to serve the business needs of commercial drivers conveniently.

While we’ve had successes getting more mileage from available funding, the future of transportation demands increased investments to fuel economic development, maintain safe connections across the state and deliver nationally significant mega projects. I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished, and I know the road ahead presents significant opportunities to keep transportation and Kentucky moving forward.

Greg Thomas is secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.