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Federal Infrastructure Bill Means Money for Ky., Possibly Brent Spence Bridge

A vote in Washington, D.C. could be good news for those hoping for movement on the Brent Spence Bridge project.

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a roughly $1 trillion measure to make improvements to highways, roads, bridges, and other pieces of infrastructure.

The bill was adopted by a vote of 69-30, with nineteen Republicans joining all Democrats in approving it.

The U.S. House of Representatives will now take up the measure.

Among the Republicans supporting the legislation was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose office sent an announcement detailing how Kentucky could benefit from it.

His fellow Kentucky Republican in the Senate, Rand Paul, voted against the legislation.

“I was proud to support today’s historic bipartisan infrastructure deal and prove that both sides of the political aisle can still come together around commonsense solutions," McConnell said. "By promoting sensible, collaborative legislation, we have shown that the Senate still works as an institution. This is an important achievement for Kentucky and the American people,” said Senator McConnell. “Communities all across the Commonwealth will benefit from this bill, which will provide critical federal resources to assist the state in updating our highways, bridges, airports, broadband, and clean drinking water. Through today’s actions, we will be more competitive on the global stage and primed for broad-based economic growth.”

According to McConnell's office, the legislation includes several competitive grant programs for which states may apply to help fund major bridge and road projects. McConnell specifically mentioned that this offers the Commonwealth the opportunity to address projects like the Brent Spence Bridge.

That span connecting Covington to Cincinnati over the Ohio River via Interstates 71 and 75 is nearly 60 years old and is functionally obsolete, carrying more than twice the number of cars each day than what it was designed for.

The bridge has been among the nation's most clogged arteries, or bottlenecks, for years.

Late last year, the bridge was closed for six weeks after a fiery crash involving two tractor-trailers damaged it. The effort to repair it quickly recently won a national award.

However, even now, the bridge has restricted access during a routine maintenance project that is expected to last into November.

For months, the bridge has received national media attention during debate over a federal infrastructure bill, including reports from The New York Times and ABC/CNN.

Over the years, the estimated cost of constructing a second bridge to the west of the existing span while improving the current bridge has been north of $2 billion. The project, as it has previously been presented, also includes miles of roadwork along the interstates in both Kentucky and Ohio.

The potential funding source cited by McConnell includes $5 billion for the brand new National Infrastructure Project Assistance grant program. It supports multi-modal, multi-jurisdictional projects, like the Brent Spence Corridor project, McConnell's office said.

Another competitive grant program in the bill includes $12.5 billion for bridge projects of regional significance with total costs of greater than $100 million. Grant awards would be at least $50 million.

Additional funding in the infrastructure bill:

  • $7.5 billion for the RAISE (formerly BUILD) grant program. This competitive grant program funds surface transportation projects of local and regional significance.
  • $3.2 billion for the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program. These competitive funds support highway and rail projects that are deemed regionally and nationally significant.

Kentucky would also receive $4.6 billion over five years for its infrastructure needs related to roads, highways, and bridges. In addition to this funding, Kentucky would also receive $438 million in direct bridge funding for state to further invest in the rehabilitation, repair and replacement of bridges, McConnell's office said.

Other funding, according to McConnell's office:

  • Provides $391 million for Kentucky’s public transportation priorities.
  • $25 billion for airport infrastructure improvements. The majority of the funding will be distributed by a formula, so Kentucky airports are guaranteed to receive funding.
  • $1.5 billion for Brownfield Site Land Revitalization. Kentucky, which has over 8,000 brownfield sites, is eligible to apply for funds via a competitive federal grant program.
  • $65 billion for broadband deployment and improvement – Kentucky will be eligible to receive a portion of this funding:
  1. Including funding from the $2 billion provided to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for programs like the ReConnect Program, which provides loans and grants to fund the construction, acquisition or improvement of facilities and equipment that provide broadband service in rural areas. Kentucky communities and organizations are eligible for this funding through the competitive federal grant program.
  2. Kentucky also will receive at a minimum, $100 million for broadband deployment through a new grant program administered by United States Department of Commerce to expand broadband to unserved and underserved areas
  • Authorizes $4.7 billion for Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells –  Kentucky has the fourth most abandoned well sites in the United States, with more than 14,000 total in nearly every county. Kentucky is eligible to receive a portion of these funds through a competitive federal grant program.
  • Authorizes up to $418 million to Kentucky’s clean and drinking water programs. Over 5 years, Kentucky may receive up to:
  1. $235 million through the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund.
  2. $182 million through the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund.
  • Kentucky will benefit from the $1 billion State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program to increase investment in cybersecurity for critical infrastructure.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher