FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky is slowly adding counties to its Real ID rollout, although it’s still not known when the airplane-friendly driver’s licenses will be available in Louisville.
Meanwhile, an October enforcement date continues to move closer. That’s when existing licenses won’t be accepted for domestic flights.
Warren County residents were able to start applying in Bowling Green earlier this week, while offices in Paducah and Somerset should open in the coming weeks. In the Louisville area, Shelby and Owen county residents can apply at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s headquarters in Frankfort.
Former Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration decided last September to abandon a longstanding plan to let county circuit court clerks handle applications in favor of a network of regional offices. Plans call for 12 such sites, with possibly as many as 30 in the future.
There is no timeline for Louisville offices to open, but new Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray predicted Tuesday that “in the next few months we are up and running” for all the regional sites.
“We inherited a project that had some serious delays to it, but now we’ve got to work with what we’ve got,” Gray told reporters. In remarks to lawmakers, he said the program, which was supposed to be complete a year ago, had encountered “some turbulence.”
Gray, a former Lexington mayor appointed by Gov. Andy Beshear in December, said he expects it will cost the state $4 million to operate the regional centers in 2020, although as the program expands that cost could climb to as much as $12 million per year.
Under the Bevin-controlled cabinet, officials began targeting publicly owned buildings as locations where people can apply for the IDs. Gray said the cabinet is continuing that approach.
He said the cabinet would divert money from the state road fund, which pays for highway and road projects, to cover Real ID. In the future, Gray said, “my motivation is to try and contain that cost.”
Gray said the Transportation Cabinet will ask lawmakers to pass legislation removing Real ID responsibilities from the circuit clerks and giving it to the state agency. But that’s not needed to continue opening the regional offices, he said.
Besides the Paducah, Somerset and Bowling Green offices, the initial wave includes Madisonville, Elizabethtown, Louisville, Lexington, Florence, Manchester, Jackson, Prestonsburg and Morehead. In Louisville, existing driver’s license bureaus would be used.
State officials previously planned to have to Louisville locations open shortly after the start of the year.
Kentucky faces an October 2020 deadline to have the Real IDs available. That’s when the Transportation Security Administration and other U.S. agencies no longer will accept Kentucky’s current licenses to board domestic flights or get into federal facilities like military bases and government buildings.
At that point, Kentuckians would need the Real ID license or a passport or other valid ID to get on a plane or enter those facilities.
Gray also sought to emphasize that the new driver’s licenses aren’t needed for people to get on a plane after October 1. He said up to 1 million Kentuckians have passports.
“If they’ve got a passport or passport card, then the urgency is not necessarily tomorrow,” he said.