Op-Ed: Time to Invest in Kentucky’s Infrastructure

Chad LaRueBlog, News

From the River City News:

Reliable transportation is key to any successful economy. Business leaders are keenly aware of this fact. If you’re waiting on a critical shipment, want your employees to arrive on time, or if you’re running to catch a flight at CVG, you need reliable transportation.

You’ll hear business groups talk about large companies impacted by transportation issues: places like Amazon, DHL, Kroger, etc.  But from my perspective, it’s the small businesses that are impacted most when transportation is not reliable. After all, of the 7,400 businesses in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties, 93 percent are 49 employees or less.

Consider a small Florence based HVAC repair business with eight employees. If two of their employees are delayed getting to a customer in Fort Wright due to traffic congestion, that is 25 percent of their workforce that can’t charge for their time. And the business they are intending to help? They suffer while they wait.

Or look a small restaurant in Covington that doesn’t have anyone showing up for happy hour because people don’t want to fight through rush hour traffic on I-75.

Lost productivity and revenue due to transportation issues has a huge impact on small business.

And let’s not forget about the impact of a daily commute. How much time is wasted sitting in traffic on a daily or weekly basis? Without question, traffic delays impact an organization’s talent attraction and retention results.

For these reasons the NKY Chamber has been championing reasonable transportation solutions and drawing attention to the various transportation needs throughout the region.

The need for additional resources dedicated to transportation is obvious. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet estimates an additional $490 million is needed annually just to address all maintenance and new construction needs throughout the state.

However, due to a change in Kentucky’s gas tax in 2014, we are seeing a $200 million annual loss in road fund revenue. That’s right – a loss in revenue at a time when more is needed.

That means we have $200 million less each year to repair our crumbling roads and bridges, while the needs of maintenance and new construction continue to be ignored.

States we are competing with are investing in their infrastructure, making their economies more competitive. You don’t have to go far to see what I mean.  Indiana and Tennessee recently increased their investments in infrastructure. Ohio is considering the same right now.

We need to keep pace.

If we don’t do anything, we won’t have any money for new road projects over the next four years!  Pretty hard to grow with that forecast.

State Rep. Sal Santoro (R-Florence) has sponsored HB 517 to address these critical infrastructure problems. This bipartisan proposal would increase the gas consumption fee and imposed annual fees on electric vehicles. This increased fuel consumption and usage fee would mean the average Kentucky driver would only have to pay $60 more a year to help repair our failing infrastructure network.

Some may be surprised to hear businesses would support increased fees. However, when you consider our deteriorating roads cost us an average of $331 each year in vehicle maintenance costs, it starts to make sense.

Anyone that has experienced auto damage from potholes recently understands the need all too well.

While no one wants to pay more at the pump, the math is obvious.

It is my hope that new revenue will be found soon so we can, once again, begin building roads and bridges that will keep our businesses up and running and our economy strong.

Brent Cooper is the president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce