Beshear's Big Day: Governor Hands Out Millions for Riverfront, Breaks Ground at NKU
His days in office winding down, Governor Steve Beshear made a whirlwind trip around Northern Kentucky handing out ceremonial checks worth millions of dollars.
At Northern Kentucky University, Beshear, NKU President Geoffrey Mearns, dean of the College of Health Professions Dale Scalise-Smith, and NKU Pre-Nursing Student Billy Morgan spoke to a crowd of local and state officials and then broke ground on the $97 million Health Innovation Center, expected to be completed in May, 2018.
The 2.2 acre-site on campus will provide a new building where students of multiple disciplines will be able to further their education in such programs as nursing, psychology, data analytics and others.
“This facility will enable us to educate our community’s next generation of health care professionals, and health care leaders,” Mearns said.
Kentucky ranks highest in the nation in the percentage of people who smoke, and are third in the percentage of people who are overweight. Mearns pointed to these statistics as an example of why more emphasis on health care is needed in the region.
The Kentucky General Assembly allocated the $97 million for the construction of the Innovative Health Center. St. Elizabeth Healthcare invested $8 million in the project which is the second largest philanthropic investment in NKU history.
”Very early on I embraced the vision of this health innovation center. I fought hard in the General Assembly to get approval for this funding request. NKU is the intellectual center and energy source here in Northern Kentucky and I know that you’re proud of his university. NKU is at the right place in the right time in history. In short, I’m counting on it to help drive Kentucky’s ongoing progress,” Beshear said.
Later, at Covington Landing, Beshear handed out grant checks made out to the City of Covington, the City of Dayton, the City of Silver Grove, and to TANK.
Covington Mayor Sherry Carran and Southbank Partners President Jack Moreland joined Beshear at the podium to talk about the $5.4 million awarded by the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds that were awarded to Northern Kentucky by Beshear and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet last month.
The City of Covington was given $3.9 million from the CMAQ Funds to help pay for the Riverfront Commons Park project that will connect the river cities from Fort Thomas to Ludlow with the park project.
“There are 665 miles of that river that runs along the border of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and that river serves so many purposes. It’s a source of drinking water, it’s a drainage basin, it’s a route for our moving goods and raw materials, it’s a fishing hole, it’s a recreational playground and it is a place simply to enjoy nature’s beauty. But for Kentucky’s old and established river cities, the Ohio River represents something also intangible: it represents their history. It represents their birthplace. It represents the natural center of things for so many families and so many people. The Riverfront Commons project represents that kind of return, both for Covington and its river-city neighbors," Beshear said.
"The 11.5 mile walking and biking trail will run along this. Physically, it will serve a lot of functions from eco system restoration, to riverside stabilization. Most of all, it will serve as a recreational focal point and a stepping out place for visitors and residents alike to access tourist attractions, restaurants and downtown business areas. This grant will allow construction of the trail along the river to get started in a big way, and I know the city has money set aside in its budget also. Here in Covington, Riverfront Commons includes not only a trail, but also several hubs where for example canoeists will be able to access the river, pedestrians will be able to access areas like MainStrasse, Roebling Point entertainment district or RiverCenter Towers."
The City of Dayton was given $530,000, also for construction of the Riverfront Commons project, for construction of approximately 1 mile of bicycle and pedestrian path, including a ramp over the floodwall. Trail will run west to east from near O’Fallon Avenue to near Berry Street.
TANK was given a check of $976,000 for the purchase of two hybrid electric diesel transit busses. The City of Silver Grove for $250,000 to build and repair sidewalks along Four Mile Road under the Safe Routes to School Program.
City officials of the cities given checks were on hand as were representatives from TANK. Beshear also said that the State Transportation Cabinet will be opening bids to the construction of the second section of the project to expand and improve the KY 9 Corridor that runs North/South through Newport.
Story & photos by Bryan Burke, associate editor