By Steve Bittenbender
Indiana and Kentucky officials are asking the federal government to provide more than $630 million in funding to help build a new bridge and connect highway segments in their states.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced the grant application for the Interstate 69 Ohio River Crossing project late Monday afternoon. The states want money from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Multimodal Discretionary Grant Program.
The program was established through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed two years ago. Among the projects eligible for funding are highways or bridges on the country’s highway system.
There are segments of Interstate 69 in both states, but they currently do not connect. Under the proposal, the states would create new miles of highway east of Evansville, Indiana, and Henderson, Kentucky, and a new bridge would connect I-69, a highway under construction in several states that, when finished, will run from the Canadian border in Michigan to the Mexican border in Texas.
Monday night was the deadline for applications. The states are asking for more than 11% of the program’s available dollars in the 2023 and 2024 fiscal years round of expected funding.
“Completing the crossing is critical for connectivity, safety and the competitiveness of our economies,” Beshear said. “But its importance extends far beyond this region, and that makes it worthy of significant federal funding.”
Kentucky and Indiana are proposing to find $513.7 million from other sources for the project and have already allocated $265 million toward the initial costs of the three-phase project.
Construction on the Kentucky side started in June as the state is building 6 new miles of the highway. Indiana officials expect to release a bid request for its portion of the road construction project later this year. That work is slated to start next year.
The project’s current timeline calls for construction to start on the four-lane bridge in 2027. It’s expected to be finished in 2031, but officials say federal funding could expedite the process.
I-69 is one of three “mega” highway projects in Kentucky. State officials are also working with leaders in Ohio on the $3.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge Project that will build a new span connecting Cincinnati with its Northern Kentucky suburbs. Kentucky is also planning $400 million in improvements to the Mountain Parkway that would extend the highway in rural Eastern Kentucky.
Available funding includes:
$1.8 billion for the National Infrastructure Project Assistance (Mega) program: The Mega program supports large, complex projects that are difficult to fund by other means and are likely to generate national or regional economic, mobility, or safety benefits. Eligible projects could include highway, bridge, freight, port, passenger rail, and public transportation projects of national or regional significance. Per the law, 50 percent of funds are available for projects above $500 million in total cost, and 50 percent are available for projects between $100 million and $500 million in total cost.
$3.1 billion for the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program: The INFRA program awards competitive grants to multimodal freight and highway projects of national or regional significance to improve the safety, accessibility, efficiency, and reliability of the movement of freight and people in and across rural and urban areas. Eligible projects will improve safety, generate economic benefits, reduce congestion, enhance resiliency, and hold the greatest promise to eliminate supply chain bottlenecks and improve critical freight movements.
$675 million for the Rural Surface Transportation Grant (Rural) program: The Rural program supports projects that improve and expand our nation’s surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas in order to increase connectivity, improve the safety and reliability of the movement of people and freight, and generate regional economic growth and improve quality of life. Eligible projects for Rural grants include highway, bridge, and tunnel projects that help improve freight, safety, and provide or increase access to agricultural, commercial, energy, or transportation facilities that support the economy of a rural area. 90% of rural funding must be awarded in $25 million or greater amounts.