Kentucky to open more offices to issue Real ID licenses

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Ramping up its Real ID program, Kentucky expects to be able to meet the demand for special licenses that many people will eventually need to board domestic airline flights, the project manager told state lawmakers on Monday.

The state has opened four regional offices so far to issue Real ID licenses but could have a dozen or more open by early summer, Real ID project manager Sarah Jackson said while updating the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation.

Starting Oct. 1, the new driver's licenses that comply with a federal travel law will be needed to board domestic flights or enter U.S. military bases. People without a Real ID after that date will have to show another form of identification, such as a passport.

“I am very confident that those who want a Real ID will be able to obtain a Real ID before the enforcement deadline of Oct. 1," Jackson told the lawmakers.

In a race against that deadline, the state has opened regional offices in Frankfort, Bowling Green, Paducah and Somerset. Officials also are expanding some existing centers to better meet demand, Jackson said.

The state is close to being able to open three or four more offices in coming weeks, and hopes to have up to 12 or 14 offices open by early summer, she said.

Officials are working to open at least two Real ID centers in Louisville, she said. In Lexington, the current plan is for one center, she said.

The longer-term goal is for 18 to 24 regional offices statewide, based on the budget request for the Real ID program, she said.

Kentucky lagged behind many other states in complying with the federal travel law passed in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The law required states to upgrade the security of driver’s licenses.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear inherited the challenge of developing the statewide network to issue the special licenses before the looming deadline. Last September, before Beshear was elected, Kentucky backed off plans to have circuit court clerk’s offices distribute the new licenses. Instead, the state Transportation Cabinet is developing the network of regional offices to distribute them.

Republican Rep. Sal Santoro, who chairs the budget review subcommittee, told Cabinet leaders Monday that “we've got a problem," noting that the October deadline is “coming around real quick."

State Transportation Secretary Jim Gray responded that the Cabinet has set up a “war room" to carry out plans to implement the Real ID program.

“We've got a deadline. And we are packing what amounts to a three-year project into 11 months," Gray said. "And, yes, there's going to be turbulence. We are getting calls every day."

To help reduce wait times, transportation officials encouraged Kentuckians to log on to a website and fill out an ID guide quiz to find out which documents they need to get a Real ID before making the trip to a Real ID office. People with different situations will need different documentation.

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The website is drive.ky.gov/confidentKY