Lake Cumberland Dam

Lake Cumberland Dam

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- The grades are in – and they’re not stellar for Kentucky’s infrastructure.

The state earned a “C-“ mark for its array of roads, bridges, dams and other structures, according to a report card released Wednesday by the Kentucky section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. It was the first analysis since 2011, when the state got a “C.”

Researchers awarded the state’s hazardous waste facilities the lowest grade, a “D,” placing those sites in “poor” condition. Kentucky’s dams, levees and roads were graded “D+.”

The best grades went to solid waste facilities, such as recycling centers and landfills, and the state’s energy network. Both garnered a “B-.”

“There is some bad news, but there is also good news,” said Tom Rockaway, a University of Louisville professor who chaired the report card committee.

“It’s clear that we find that much of Kentucky’s infrastructure is old and needs sig attention. But we know if we work together we can prioritize infrastructure investment and make it better for us all,” he said during an event in Frankfort.

The report card was produced by an engineering trade group whose members stand to benefit from increased spending on infrastructure projects. At the same time, the Kentucky section didn’t endorse any specific legislative priorities.

The report concluded that the state needs $1.6 billion to clean up hundreds of old and abandoned waste sites that still pose a risk to human health, but Kentucky’s has only $450,000 annually it can apply to that work.

Kentucky also has seen an increase in “high-hazard” dams that could cause major property damage and even death if they fail, the group found. Meanwhile, the state’s network of levees is aging, with nearly half built more than 50 years ago.

The best grades went to solid waste facilities, such as recycling centers and landfills, and the state’s energy network. Both garnered a “B-.”

To fix the low marks, the engineers’ organization suggests a “big picture approach” to infrastructure spending, among other solutions.

The condition of the state’s roads increased slightly, from “D-“ to D” over the last eight years, according to the report. It argued that while the state’s six-year spending guide enacted last year envisions $8.5 billion for more than 1,400 projects, there is still “inadequate funding” for needed work.

Kentucky also is preparing to lose about $120 million a year in federal toll credits, which it has used to meet the required state support on federal road projects. Those credits could run out in 2020, forcing the state to dip into road fund dollars to provide the matching funds.

Lawmakers are considering whether to raise gas taxes to help fill that expected gap and to provide more money for transportation projects. A bill last year adding a 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase failed to advance last year; it would have pushed the state tax to 36 cents per gallon, generating more than $433 million per year.

A similar bill hasn’t been introduced this year. But Rep. Walker Thomas, vice chair of the House Transportation Committee, said legislators are aware that the loss of toll credits is a “big issue.”

As for a gas-tax measure, he said, “It is being discussed right now, so we’re still working on it.”

Reach reporter Marcus Green at 502-585-0825, mgreen@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2019 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.

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Marcus Green joined WDRB News in 2013 after 12 years as a staff writer at the Louisville Courier-Journal. He reports on transportation and local and state government.