After weeks of negotiations, lawmakers introduced a 1,159-page bill last week to fund a quarter of the federal government and prevent another partial shutdown. Senators voted 83-16 to approve the deal on Thursday, and the House followed with a 300-128 vote later in the evening. President Trump signed the bill into law Friday, avoiding another government shutdown.
The legislation agreed to a spending measure for the Department of Homeland Security that includes $1.375 billion for a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border. But the bill also covers seven other appropriations bills, including spending measures for seven less controversial agencies: Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Interior, State, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.
And, while this bill had a major impact on a national level, it also provided an obscure provision that is a major win for Owensboro. Just 12 pages from the end of the bill, lawmakers added exemptions to federal truck weight rules in the state of Kentucky — specifically the William H. Natcher Parkway.
Congressman Brett Guthrie lobbied for an Owensboro connection to I-65 and helped get the designation for the I-165 spur in the December 2015 highway bill. According to Guthrie’s communication director, Lauren Gaydos, it was hearing from farmers and business owners in the Natcher Parkway corridor that drove Guthrie and Senator Mitch McConnell to seek the weight rule exemption.
According to the Kentucky Department of Transportation, the gross vehicle weight for the Natcher Parkway is 80,000 pounds. The bill states that a vehicle on the Natcher can’t exceed a gross vehicle weight of 120,000 pounds.
“The I-65 spur provides a vital link between Owensboro and Bowling Green to transport agricultural goods, coal and manufacturing products in the Second District and beyond,” Guthrie said. “This legislation will make it possible for trucks to continue transporting these important goods. I was proud to work with Leader McConnell to designate the I-65 spur, and I am glad we were able to continue our work by ensuring the weight exemption in this legislation.”
In September 2018, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet announced that I-165 would officially be expedited. The agreement to fast-forward the construction process and project came under a modified Interstate Conversion Agreement. Motorists could see signs for I-165 displayed by the end of 2019.