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KY’s Roads, Bridges Need Repair, But Focus Remains on Airports

Kentucky ranks 19th nationally for more than 1,000 deficient bridges in need of repair, according to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. (Adobe Stock)
Kentucky ranks 19th nationally for more than 1,000 deficient bridges in need of repair, according to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. (Adobe Stock)
May 15, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky's roads and bridges are in dire need of repair, but some lawmakers are focused on airports.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., has proposed raising the Passenger Facility Charge, a $4.50-per-flight fee used to fund airport projects. However, Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayer's Union, said Passenger Facility Charge revenue has climbed each year since 2000, except for two years during the Great Recession.

He said more than 20% of the cost of an airline ticket now goes toward excise taxes, 9/11 fees and other charges.

"We feel that infrastructure policy ought to be user-paid, user-financed," said Sepp, "but there also has to be accountability in the way that various taxes, charges and fees are levied."

Kentucky's highways, sewers, water-treatment facilities and other infrastructure are aging faster than investment in repairs, according to the latest report by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The organization has given the state a grade of C-minus.

Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president for legislative and regulatory policy for the group Airlines for America, said airports don't need the extra cash from a higher Passenger Facility Charge, and pointed out that the federal government already spends billions of dollars a year on airports.

"Because we have a $7 billion surplus in the Aviation Trust Fund, simply put, the PFC is a tax that airports don't need and customers don't want to pay it," she said. "Higher air taxes just aren't going to fly with passengers."

Construction is underway at Central Kentucky Regional Airport, between Richmond and Berea, for a $1.8 million aircraft parking ramp expansion. Meanwhile, state Rep. Randy Bridges, R-Paducah, has said more than $8 billion is needed to fix crumbling roads and bridges - yet the state budget has allocated only $2.6 billion for transportation.

The ASCE report is online at infrastructurereportcard.org.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY