FLEMINGSBURG – At a meeting in Flemingsburg, Associate Director of Research and Communication Carolyn Kelly of TRIP said 98 percent of county maintained roads in Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's Highway District 9 are in good, fair or poor condition.
TRIP is a national transportation research group that compiles statistics about roadways, bridges, fatalities and other transportation-related information to present to the respective districts. The organization will be traveling to each of the 12 districts that make up Kentucky.
District 9 includes Bath, Boyd, Carter, Elliot, Fleming, Greenup, Lewis, Mason, Nicholas and Rowan counties.
TRIP has gathered information from a survey given to members of the Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners Association and calculated that 44 percent of roads are in good condition, 24 percent are in fair condition and 30 percent are in poor condition.
Roads that are rated as poor condition may show signs of deterioration, including rutting, cracks and potholes. In some cases, poor roads can be resurfaced but are often too deteriorated and must be reconstructed. Roads that are rated as fair condition may show signs of significant wear and may also have some visible pavement distress. Most pavements in fair condition can be repaired by resurfacing, but some may need more extensive reconstruction to return them to good condition.
According to TRIP, pavement failure can be caused by a combination of traffic, moisture and climate. Moisture can work its way into the road surfaces and the materials that form the road’s foundation. Slow moving traffic at intersections can cause the road to deteriorate quicker because they produce a greater level of stress.
The KMCA survey of county governments found that 45 percent of District 9’s county-maintained roads are in need of resurfacing, but the current funding levels will only allow the resurfacing of 2 percent of those roads in 2017. The survey also found that 20 percent of District 9’s county-maintained roads are in need of reconstruction, but the current funding levels will only allow the reconstruction of 1 percent of those roads in 2017.
Alongside the roadways, bridges in District 9 are needing repair and care. According to the Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory, 73 out of 1,145 of the bridges registered in District 9 are rated as being structurally deficient. These bridges are safe to have traffic on but show signs of deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components of the bridge.
“We’ve got a serious problem on our hands,” said Fleming County Judge-Executive Larry Foxworthy. “Trip has gathered this information to share with us and it will show us just how bad the problem is and how much of a need we have for investments and funding from the state to improve this condition.”
Kelly said according to the county officials in District 9, the greatest challenges they face in office comes from the need to improve road and bridge conditions with extremely limited funds.
“Kentucky faces a significant and growing transportation funding shortfall,” said Kelly. “The condition of the roads and bridges will continue to fall without funding and possibly result in an increase of fatality rates.”
Based on a TRIP analysis of data provided by the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, the traffic fatality rate in District 9 during a three-year period from 2014 to 2016, there were 95 traffic fatalities with an average of 32 fatalities per year. Fifty-two percent of those fatalities were directly related to a vehicle leaving the roadway.
That same analysis reported 456 serious injuries as a result of traffic crashes in the same three year period with an average of 152 serious injuries per year.
District 9 had a 1.42 percent fatality rate per 100 million miles of vehicle travel during that same three year period. The statewide average was 1.54 percent and the national average was lower at 1.08 percent.
“The biggest concern that I have is public safety,” said Foxworthy. “Safe travel for the people but also ambulances, law enforcement, officials and others that need good roadways.”
Foxworthy also was quoted in the TRIP report as saying, “Our transportation system is crucial to everything we do in Fleming County. It provides safe access for our families to drive to work and school. It ships Kentucky produce, products and resources to the rest of the country and world, which creates good-paying jobs. It transports workers and students to jobs and works through public transportation.”
Emphasis was placed on tackling this problem now rather than let it fester.
“We’ve been talking for months about the fact that there is a $1 billion backlog in resurfacing and maintenance for a total of 3,700 miles of roadway,” said executive director of Kentuckians for Better Transportation. “This report brings it closer to home and quantifies the real impact being felt on the roads and bridges in every corner of the Commonwealth.”
“It is going to get to a point that the costs and problems are astronomical,” said Foxworthy.
“A lot of solutions presented in the past were to generate funding over time but this is something that we need to have immediately,” said Bath County Judge-Executive Bobby Rogers.
The officials present at the meeting continued to discuss the problems at hand concerning the roadways and said that while the problems are getting worse, the price of labor and materials is only going up. The funding levels that are offered to the counties to combat these problems are not sufficient to be significantly impactful.
“Without greater investment at all levels of government, Kentucky’s transportation system will become increasingly deteriorated, hampering economic growth, safety and quality of life,” said TRIP Executive Director Will Wilkins.