Call to Order and Roll Call
Thefourth meeting of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation of the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue was held on Monday, November 21, 2016, at 10:30 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Leslie Combs, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Guests:† Andy Barber, Deputy State Highway Engineer and Executive Director, Office of Project Delivery and Preservation, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), and Marshall Carrier, Project Manager for the Mountain Parkway Project, Department of Highways, KYTC.
Update and Funding Breakdown for Upcoming Salary Adjustments
Andy Barber, Deputy State Highway Engineer and Executive Director of the Office of Project Delivery and Preservation, KYTC, gave an overview of the upcoming salary adjustments for a number of maintenance and engineering job classifications. The adjustments will affect about 2,600 employees and will cost the agency $31 million annually, inclusive of salary and benefits. These salary increases are expected to be a net positive which will decrease turnover and allow the agency to do more work in-house for snow and ice removal, culvert repair, and other items that have previously been contracted out. The salary increases will affect new hires, and there will be anti-compression adjustments for current employees.
In response to a question by Senator Parrett, Mr. Barber stated that the savings will come from reducing more expensive contract work such as snow and ice removal which will result in a $9 million savings alone. Existing equipment is available and operators are needed. There will also be a reduction in training costs due to employee retention. Savings will also come from bringing cable barrier repair and pavement repair in-house.
In response to a question by Representative Keene, Mr. Barber stated that the current starting hourly rate for a Highway Equipment Operator (HEO) with the state is $10.20 per hour and the recommended rate increase is $3.07, for a total of $13.27 per hour. This increased rate will make the position a lot more attractive and competitive.
In response to questions by Representative Collins, Mr. Barber stated that the first raise after an employee is hired comes after six months when they complete their probationary period and receive a five percent raise. Typically it would take around two years for that employee to move up to the next pay tier and they could possibly max out in the HEO series at a Highway Superintendent II which would put them at an entry rate of $19.04 per hour under the recommended pay scale.
In response to a question by Chair Combs, Mr. Barber stated that the anticipated date for implementation is December 16, 2016, though this is not yet finalized.
In response to a question by Senator Higdon, Mr. Barber stated that most employees impacted by these adjustments are on a forty hour work week, and are on emergency call during snow and ice events.
In response to questions by Representative Stewart, Mr. Barber stated that these raises do not impact all the employees in the district and field offices and that he is not sure who may be contacting legislators next looking for a raise. These raises do not cover administrative support personnel.
In response to a question by Chair Combs, Mr. Barber stated the raises only affect the maintenance series and some engineering classifications. Current and past raises will affect about 90 percent of the cabinetís employees.
Senator Parrett commented that HEOs and other maintenance workers were the primary area of concern according to conversations he had been involved in.
Representative Collins made a motion that Mr. Barber provide a summary of the discussion today of the categories that have been affected, a chart on the raises, and the anticipated start date with a note that it is subject to approval by the Personnel Cabinet and the Office of State Budget Director. The motion was seconded by Senator Parrett and all were in favor. The motion passed and a copy of the summary will be provided to the Chair and members of the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation as well as the Chair of this Committee as soon as possible.
Status of Major Road Projects
Marshall Carrier, Project Manager for the Mountain Parkway expansion project, KYTC, gave a history, overview, and update of the expansion of the Mountain Parkway. Design changes have resulted in cost savings of approximately $40 million relative to initial estimates, and a federal TIGER grant of $24 million for Restaurant Row in Salyersville sped up construction of that segment. Initial estimates for the project were $753 million in 2014, and as of November 2016, $283 million of this has been authorized.
Chair Combs applauded the efforts made to break the project into smaller sections which has made the project run very smoothly. She commented that the focus needs to remain on economic development by using in-state contractors. She noted the importance of developing a system of four-lane highways throughout the Commonwealth, of which the Mountain Parkway is just one.
In response to questions by Representative Collins, Mr. Carrier stated there are currently 86 access points in Salyersville in about a two-mile stretch. They are shifting to a limited access mentality where direct access to the main line will be restricted down to essentially four stop lights. There will be a series of frontage and backage roads that will service the fronts of some properties and the backs of other properties. One key aspect is maintaining access during construction. Social media and a website are being utilized to keep people informed during the project. Some of the business access points will shift from the front of the property to the back. These changes address safety concerns and crash histories that have been prevalent in that area for some time. Right-of-way issues for businesses are being addressed by agency attorneys. West of Salyersville, there were originally three project segments let separately to multiple contractors; however, due to business reorganizations, there is now one contractor completing the segments as one, which improves efficiency. Excess fill material is available to be used by the county for a potential industrial site.
Mr. Barber gave an update on a number of other major projects. The Downtown Crossing portion of the Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges project, for which the KYTC served as the lead agency, reached substantial completion in November 2016, ahead of schedule and on budget. The Kentucky Lake bridge opened to traffic in summer 2016 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016. The Lake Barkley bridge project is scheduled to be completed in fall 2017. The I-65 widening project from Elizabethtown south to Sonora is scheduled to be completed in fall 2018, with the portion just south of that scheduled to be completed by June 30, 2017. The I-75 widening project in Rockcastle County will be broken into three sections, with the northernmost section scheduled to be let in December 2016, the middle section in summer 2017, and the southernmost section in spring 2018. The I-65 and I-75 widenings are from two lanes in each direction to three in each direction.
Chair Combs stated that this is her last meeting before her upcoming retirement and it has been an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of the Commonwealth.
Chair Combs made a motion to adjourn in honor of Representative Collins, the motion was seconded by Senator Parrett, and all were in favor. The motion passed and the meeting was adjourned at 11:55 AM.