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Tomlinson expresses need for roads before legislators

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By Dave Taylor

Concerns about the impact of closing the Madison-Milton bridge were among those raised by Carroll County Judge Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomilinson at a hearing held by the General Assembly’s Interim Joint Committee on Transportation in Buckner last week.

In his testimony before the legislators, Tomlinson voiced concerns about rural secondary road issues and briefed the committee on the plan to replace the Milton-Madison bridge with a new superstructure on the existing piers. He broached the bridge issue on behalf of Trimble County Judge-Executive Randy Stevens, who was unable to attend the hearing.

The Carroll County judge executive told the committee that closing the Milton-Madison bridge for up to a year would create a strain for workers and shoppers on both sides of the Ohio River if the transportation departments of Kentucky and Indiana are successful in procuring federal stimulus money to replace the superstructure on existing piers. If the states are successful in receiving the funding, the bridge would be closed for up to a year while construction of a new superstructure is underway.  

“I brought up how closing that bridge would impact Carroll and Trimble counties,” Tomlinson said. “Closing that bridge for a year is going to affect a lot of people on both sides of the river who use the bridge to shop and commute to their jobs, and I told them it’s going to be a significant financial sacrifice for a lot of people.”

Senator Ernie Harris, co-chairman of the committee with Rep. Hubert Collins, told the committee members that the Milton-Madison bridge replacement was the “most important project” among roads issues in Trimble County.

“We definitely need a new bridge there for two reasons,” Harris told The News-Democrat in a telephone interview Tuesday. “One is for the sake of safety, the other is to continue the healthy commerce between the counties in southern Indiana and our counties in northern Kentucky.”

Harris said the ideal situation would be construction of a brand-new bridge, however, waiting for funding for such a project may not happen in the foreseeable future.

“Unfortunately, I don’t see a solution other than the TIGER grant the two states are pursuing. It is not my first choice but it may be the only way we’ll see a new bridge become reality,” Harris said.

Besides discussion of the bridge project, most of the testimony consisted of concerns with historical changes in traffic volume and patterns, basic infrastructure challenges faced by the counties, and pressing issues regarding maintenance of rural secondary roads and bridges.

“The focus of the meeting,” Harris said, “was to give the committee some idea of the road issues involving the suburban counties around Louisville. We know a lot about the road issues faced in the urban areas of Louisville, Lexington, Frankfort and near Cincinnati, but we looked at changing traffic patterns in the rural counties surrounding the urban areas.”

Tomlinson gave the committee insights into the diversity of Carroll County’s industrial base, the changes in traffic volume involving the number of people in the region who are commuting to work in Carroll County, and the amount of commercial traffic carrying goods to and from the industrial plants here, he said in an interview with The News-Democrat. The “conditions of some of our bridges” also merited testimony, he said.

“One of the concerns I raised was the formula they had for distributing the rural secondary road funds,” Tomlinson said, “and I told the committee how the Department of Transportation keeps falling behind on their ability to maintain our rural secondary roads. They, like everybody else, are wrestling with where the funding is coming from.”

The Rural Secondary Program is funded by 22.2 percent of the motor fuels tax revenue, according to the Office of Rural and Secondary Roads Web site. These funds are used for the construction, reconstruction and maintenance of secondary and rural roads in each county. The Transportation Cabinet is responsible for expending all Rural Secondary Program funds.

Harris said the RSR formula has been the subject of debate for as long as he has been a member of the General Assembly, “and I don’t know if it’s ever going to be resolved. The urban counties feel they deserve more money because of the amount of traffic on their roads. The rural counties feel they deserve more based on the number of miles of rural secondary roads they have. Each side feels they’re not getting their fair share.”

Although the committee did not get into detail on a county-by-county basis, the legislators did hear some testimony on changes in traffic patterns in the region since the completion of Interstate 71 in 1969, according to Harris.

“The interstate has brought a lot of traffic into Oldham County,” he said. “Interstates have brought a lot of advantages to a lot of areas and a great example--particularly in our area--is Carroll and Gallatin counties. Look at how the industry has grown there with the availability of I-71, the railroads and the rivers.”

Tomlinson also told the committee that a lot of the complaints he hears from local constituents are “about the growth of trees and bushes and the lack of proper ditching along roadways.”

    One of the judges raised a question about the mix of the asphalt the highway contractors are currently using, that a new cap doesn’t seem to last as long as it should. Contractors normally cap roads with a 1 ½-inch cover.

“Maybe if the application were thicker the roads might last longer,” Tomlinson said. “With the volume of heavy trucks we have now it seems like after they cap a road, within two to three years we have the same problems all over again.”

While most of the judges who were invited to provide testimony serve in counties located in District 5 of the Department of Transportation, Tomlinson was extended an invitation by Sen. Harris to participate as Carroll County is located within his Senate district and borders two of the District 5 counties. Harris’ 26th District includes Carroll, Trimble, Henry, Oldham and part of Jefferson counties.

Tomlinson said he appreciated the opportunity to address Carroll County’s highway needs before the members of the General Assembly. “I felt like it was a productive meeting,” he added.

The Interim Joint Committee on Transportation has jurisdiction over matters relating to the construction and maintenance of the state highway system; the Department of Transportation; state aid for local roads and streets; the Kentucky State Police; the Federal Highway Safety law; turnpike authority; state and federal highways; limited access facilities; use of road bond moneys; automobile recyclers; highway beautification; bridges, tunnels, and ferries; traffic regulations; licensing of motor vehicles and other issues related to transportation in Kentucky.

Other judge-executives who testified included John Brent, Henry County; Melanie Roberts, Bullitt County; Duane Murner, Oldham County; Rob Rothenburger, Shelby County; and David Jenkins, Spencer County.