Kentucky Governor’s Proposed Budget Includes Bridge Upgrades, Replacements

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear prioritized two new bridges over the Ohio River January 14 as part of his recommended budget.

Released on the same date as his recommended six-year highway plan, Beshear proposed to set aside $250 million in state funds as the matching requirement for federal grants being sought for three transportation priorities. The first is toll-free funding of the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor project in northern Kentucky, which includes construction of a companion bridge to share the volume of traffic on interstates 71 and 75 between Covington in Kentucky and Cincinnati in Ohio. Another is continued development of the I-69 Ohio River crossing at Henderson. The third project is widening work necessary to extend the four-lane Mountain Parkway along Ky. 114 from Salyersville to Prestonburg.

Each of the projects is listed separately in the recommended highway plan as a Kentucky “mega” project.

The recommended highway plan is the state’s major document for guiding transportation priorities, serving as a “road map” for maintaining and improving transportation infrastructure.

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Brent Spence Bridge 

With the recent passage of bipartisan infrastructure legislation, the states of Kentucky and Ohio were encouraged to see that Congress specifically referred to the Brent Spence Bridge as a “freight chokepoint” and as “a major infrastructure problem that the nation must solve,” the highway plan notes. The bridge came to the forefront after a November 11, 2020, truck crash and fire that required its closure for six weeks during emergency repairs. Accordingly, both the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) are working together to prepare applications for federal grant funding to offset a large portion of the project’s cost.

“The $2.8 billion project will provide a companion bridge for the Brent Spence Bridge and rework the bridge approaches on both sides of the river to achieve the freight capacity so desperately needed at this location,” according to the recommended highway plan. “Kentucky’s share of the estimated cost of the Brent Spence Bridge Project is estimated at $1.3 billion in current year dollars. Using federal grants, regular federal highway funds, state general fund money, and GARVEE bonds, KYTC expects to move this project toward construction by the year 2024 using design-build techniques that have proven successful on other large Kentucky projects.”

New I-69 Bridge In Henderson

Kentucky is working with the state of Indiana toward the new I-69 bridge between Henderson in Kentucky and Evansville in Indiana. 

“Each state is currently engaged in building approach work on its respective side of the Ohio River, and it is anticipated that the Ohio River crossing itself will be ready to move to construction around the year 2027,” according to the recommended highway plan.

The plan includes $320 million as Kentucky’s share of the estimated $750 million to develop the project and begin construction from U.S. 60 north to I-69 in Indiana.

“This section includes a new Ohio River Bridge and is expected to use a combination of tolls, federal grants and state monies to complete the I-69 Ohio River crossing,” according to the highway plan. 

Environmental assessments for the project were completed in 2021, making it now eligible for federal grant awards toward design, right-of-way acquisition and construction. The contract for the first section of the construction was awarded in December 2021. 

Other Bridge And Ferry Projects

The governor’s recommended highway plan would provide $3.6 billion—nearly $600 million a year—to address a backlog of deficient bridges and pavement repairs. The governor presents an updated plan to the state’s General Assembly in mid-January of each even-numbered year.

“Kentucky owns and maintains over 9,000 bridges and over 63,000 lane-miles of pavement. That’s the seventh-largest bridge system and eighth-largest pavement system in the nation,” Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) Secretary Jim Gray said. “It is critically important that KYTC manages and maintains these assets in a state of good repair for the health, safety and economic vitality of the state.”

The highway plan noted that while the KYTC cannot predict with certainty that it will receive U.S. Department of Transportation federal discretionary grant funding, the state is actively seeking it for the three priority projects. It also noted the existence of new competitive federal grant programs, including the Bridge Investment Grant program and the Congestion Relief Grant Program, along with continuing grant dollars available through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) and Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) programs.

Major river-related projects in the recommended highway plan include:

• $720 million from 2022-28 and an additional $250 million in GARVEE bonds to construct a companion bridge to the existing I-71/75 Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River between Covington, Ky., and Cincinnati, Ohio.  

• $180 million 2022-27 to initiate preliminary engineering, environmental studies and other preconstruction activities to upgrade the existing I-71/75 Brent Spence Bridge corridor at the Ohio River between Covington, Ky., and Cincinnati, Ohio.

• $116.5 million for engineering and environmental work in 2022 and 2026-28 with all but $1.5 million in the latter three years for replacement of the Wickliffe, Ky., to Cairo, Ill., bridge over the Ohio River carrying U.S. 60/U.S. 62 at or beside the existing bridge.

• $26.8 million in 2023-2026 for replacement of the Carrollton-Prestonville Bridge over the Kentucky River carrying U.S. 42/Ky. 36. 

• $23.4 million for rehabilitation of the Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge carrying U.S. 62 over the Ohio River between Maysville, Ky., and Aberdeen, Ohio, from 2023-2027.

• $35.2 million in 2023 and 2024 for the I-64 Sherman Minton Bridge over the Ohio River in Louisville as part of a joint project with the state of Indiana.

• $23 million from 2023-2027 for upgrades to the U.S. 41 bridge over the Ohio River between Henderson, Ky., and Evansville, Ind.

• $49.3 million for the Ky. 676 bridge at the Kentucky River and Ky. 1263 in Franklin County, with $4.4 million to be used in 2024 and the rest 2026-2028.

• $35 million from 2023-26 with just more than $25 million in 2026 for a project to reduce congestion and improve safety, capacity and mobility along Ky. 90 between the Wayne County line and the new Cumberland River bridge in Pulaski County.

• $3.3 million, amounting to $550,000 each year 2023-28 for the continued operation of the Cave-in-Rock Ferry over the Ohio River between Crittenden County, Ky., and Hardin County, Ill.

• $2.3 million, amounting to 332,900 annually 2022-28 for continued operation of the Valley View Ferry on the Kentucky River in Fayette County.

• $1 million, amounting to $144,000 annually 2022-28 for the continued operation of the Dorena-Hickman Ferry connecting Hickman, Ky., with Dorena, Mo.

The 2022 Governor’s Recommended Highway Plan is based on anticipated revenues of $8.5 billion through 2028: $6.2 billion in federal-aid highway program funding and $2.3 billion in anticipated state revenues.

“My Recommended Highway Plan is fiscally responsible, regionally diverse and data-driven,” Beshear said. “It will enhance safety, accessibility and the quality of life for all of our citizens. It also provides a way to pursue the types of investments we need to build on the record-setting economic development of the past two years.”

To see the complete 2022 Recommended Highway Plan, visit