LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal infrastructure bill could allow Kentucky to pay for two large bridge projects without tolls, state Senate President Robert Stivers said Friday, Aug. 13.
The $1 trillion bipartisan plan passed the Senate 69-30 Aug. 10, with Kentucky’s GOP senators splitting their vote. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who supported the measure, praised the bill’s potential to help update highways, bridges and airports; extend broadband; and provide clean drinking water to Kentuckians.
Sen. Rand Paul, who voted no, said that the bill was “Step 1 of the `Green New Deal.’”
While Kentucky would receive at least $5.1 billion over several years for infrastructure, the state would still have to apply for part of $12 billion in federal funds set aside for larger projects that have “multistate implications,” said Stivers, a Republican. That would help pay for the Brent Spence Bridge and the Interstate 69 bridge projects, he said at a virtual press briefing held with Kentucky business groups by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“That is more than enough to cover our portion of both bridges, without us having to toll or raise taxes,” he added.
If so, Louisville bridges that connect Kentucky’s largest city to Indiana, would be the only bridges in the state to have tolls.
Stivers warned that if the federal measure did not become law, Kentucky’s state budget would be strained by the cost of the projects.
The 56-year-old Brent Spence bridge, which links Ohio and Kentucky, closed briefly in 2020 after it was damaged in a truck collision. It cost roughly $12 million dollars in federal emergency funds to repair.
Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray noted in December that the structure currently carries twice the number of vehicles per day that it was built for and that the construction of a “companion bridge” would be the only long-term solution.
The Interstate 69 bridge project, which would run over the Ohio River between Indiana and Kentucky, is estimated to cost nearly $1.5 billion.
Earlier last week, Gov. Andy Beshear shared Stiver’s optimism about the role of the measure in restoring the state’s bridges and highways.
“We can make it happen for communities that have been waiting for so long,” said Beshear, a Democrat. “If this transportation bill goes through … it’s not just a huge amount of highway and interstate money, but it’s truly these large significant projects that open up a lot of portions of our state.”
By Piper Hudspeth Blackburn, The Associated Press
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