Lawmakers Updated on Mega Transportation Projects

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) Secretary Jim Gray and Assistant State Highway Engineer John Moore testified at Friday’s Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation on mega projects and the Strategic Highway Investment Formula for Tomorrow (SHIFT).

Gray explained that federal funding is still uncertain on large transportation projects while Congress debates the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). However, he said that consultants had begun a study to update the cost of a companion bridge to ease traffic loads on the Brent Spence Bridge. There is also research underway into how to minimize the footprint of the future project.

A 2012 study estimated the cost at $2.8 billion for a 7.8-mile corridor on Interstates 71 and 75 to address safety, congestion, and geometric concerns. Gray reiterated that the current Brent Spence Bridge is structurally safe.

“KYTC continues to make improvements to make sure the bridge remains in operation and available to serve as a key component to the regional and national transportation network for many years,” Gray testified. “We are currently executing a contract to clean, prep, and paint the bridge, and that is expected to be completed this fall.”

Gray said initial work on section one of the Interstate 69 crossing should begin early next year in Henderson. That project will cost $230 million and take until 2025 to complete. Section two, which includes a four-lane river crossing, is estimated to cost $1 billion, with construction starting in 2027 and lasting four years.

The third mega project addressed is the Mountain Parkway expansion. “The project team has made significant progress on the expansion project since construction began in 2015,” Gray told legislators.

He said workers had finished approximately one-third of the project, with a section under construction and another starting in early 2022. Gray expects $300 million will be needed to complete the final section, a 14-mile stretch from Salyersville to Prestonsburg.

Moore told the committee that the next step in SHIFT begins next week when regional priorities are discussed. The initial study identified 3,796 potential projects totaling $70 billion. The process that concluded on July 30 had narrowed the list to 275 national highway system projects with a combined cost of $11 billion, including 52 projects worth $7 billion on interstates and parkways.

Committee co-chair Senator Jimmy Higdon (R-Lebanon) asked whether final SHIFT information will be given to legislators as they consider the next transportation budget. Moore responded that he was uncertain but understood why the information would be important to those allocating road funds.