Sunday, February 16, 2003

Tolls to end on two highways

Federal funding letting Ky. pay off bonds early

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - Toll charges on the Daniel Boone Parkway and the Louie B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway will be eliminated thanks to funding included in the federal budget approved this week.

The budget includes $13 million to pay off construction bonds for the 30-year-old roads, allowing the state to eliminate toll charges.

The tolls have long been an irritant and a cost for people and businesses using the parkways in southern and southeastern Kentucky. In particular, some people grumbled that it wasn't fair to have to pay tolls on the Daniel Boone, a 60-mile road between London and Hazard, because it is a two-lane highway with passing lanes.

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers said Friday that he had included the money in the federal budget to end the tolls.

"It's been a sore spot with some of us for a long time that the poorest part of the state was being charged to travel our own highways, especially the two-lane highways," said Rogers, a Republican from Somerset.

Tolls went to pay off the bonds that financed construction. It costs $2 to travel the length of the Cumberland and $1.40 on the Daniel Boone. Tolls had been scheduled to end on both roads in 2007, but now the tolls will come off within months, said Kentucky Transportation Secretary James Codell III. The federal money also will allow the state to refinance other toll-road bonds.

The state has been collecting $8 million annually in tolls on the two roads.

Losing that money will cut revenue to the state, but will help the economy of the areas served by the roads, Codell said.

Residents along the two highways were happy to hear that tolls would end.

"I'm sure that'll be welcome news to everyone," said longtime Leslie County Clerk James Lewis.

Many drive from Clay and Leslie counties to jobs in London and Corbin, paying 80 cents or more every day they go to work.

With charges off the Cumberland and the Daniel Boone, Kentucky will have only two toll parkways left. They are the Audubon and the William H. Natcher, both in Western Kentucky.

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