Legislators Updated on Infrastructure Projects

Two interim committees heard testimony Wednesday regarding important infrastructure projects. State Budget Director John Hicks updated the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue on broadband and water projects, and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) Secretary Jim Gray appeared before the Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation to discuss inflationary impacts on mega project funding.

Hicks told lawmakers that a search is underway for an executive director for the Office of Broadband Deployment. The position will be key in preparing for more federal funds to improve internet service across the commonwealth.

Kentucky should receive an additional $700 million from the federal Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. Hicks said the state will not allocate that money until early 2023 after completing a five-year strategic action plan.

Hicks also urged local leaders to coordinate their efforts in the next round of Kentucky Infrastructure Authority (KIA) clean water grants. The General Assembly allocated $250 million in both the 2021 and 2022 regular sessions. KIA has awarded $200 million in grants from the 2021 legislation; Hicks expects the 2022 application process to open soon.

“The allocations have it by county, by population,” he explained. “The special districts in those locations come together with local elected officials and decide what are the projects they are going to seek awarding for funds that are capped by county.”

Gray told the Transportation Committee that Kentucky’s three infrastructure mega projects continue to progress despite inflation concerns. “I think we can all agree that these are extraordinary times,” he said. “I don’t know of anyone who was forecasting 8% inflation this time last year.”

Gray said inflation has impacted the KYTC budget “as it has everything else.” He added that it makes it more challenging to plan and budget for projects.

Despite those concerns, he voiced optimism about the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project, stating that several prospective bidders attended a recent meeting in Covington. Gray also said a letter-writing campaign by city, state, and business leaders delivered more support letters than federal officials could ever remember receiving for any grant application.

Gray commented that the Mountain Parkway project continues to move forward, and he highlighted the recent I-69 Ohio River crossing groundbreaking in Henderson. “It’s underway! It’s underway and on schedule,” he said. “We’re working with Indiana to put together a plan where we may be able to accelerate the project.” Bridge construction should begin in 2027.