America’s roads are failing.
That’s the conclusion of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2021 report card on roads, streets and highways nationwide. Those earned a collective D grade. The report added that 40% of the system is in poor or mediocre condition, mainly because of underfunding.
Kentucky has poured millions of dollars into its roads each year, but the 2019 ASCE Kentucky Section gave the state a C-minus on infrastructure, which includes roads.
Currently, the Purchase Area Development District, local officials and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet are trying to create a list of priority road construction.
That list of statewide and regional priorities is finalized by the KYTC to help develop the Governor’s Recommended State Highway Plan, which is presented to the General Assembly.
“Making sure that we pick the right projects to spend the taxpayer dollars on, I think, is very important,” said Jim LeFevre, the Purchase Area Development District transportation planner.
Every two years, local and state officials get together to make a list of road priorities. Road priorities are ranked by several different scoring tools that include traffic congestion, accident reports and project costs.
KYTC uses the Strategic Highway Investment Formula for Tomorrow (SHIFT) to rank roads to recommend for the governor’s recommendations. SHIFT is a graded formula that uses measurable data to assess the need for and benefits of planned projects and compare them to each other. The categories SHIFT uses are safety, asset management, congestion, economic growth and benefit/cost.
The SHIFT formula helped prioritize the double-crossover diamond on U.S. 60 near the Kentucky Oaks Mall in Paducah.
“The transportation cabinet and the governor’s office are the decision-makers in what goes into the recommended highway plan, but ultimately, though, the highway plan is passed by the legislature,” LeFevre said.
The Kentucky general assembly has the power to ignore the recommendations. Legislators hold a vote and decide how much money and which roads are priorities for the next two years.
SHIFT 2022 is underway. The KYTC says the 2022 process includes several refinements to scoring metrics and the prioritization process based on feedback and experience.