News and Tribune

April 15, 2014

Transportation secretary visits Ohio River Bridges Project

Foxx urges Congress to act to solve infrastructure deficit

By MATT KOESTERS
matt.koesters@newsandtribune.com

LOUISVILLE — Using the downtown crossing of the Ohio River Bridges Project as a backdrop, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx urged Congress to pass a $302 billion, four-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal he and President Barack Obama plan to submit later this month.

Foxx joined Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., and state and local officials to tout the economic growth predicted to come with the completion of the bridges project, which relies on more than $1 billion in federal highway funds.

“Projects like the Ohio River Bridges not only create jobs, but they also lay the foundation for long-term economic growth for entire regions and industries,” Foxx said. “I’m traveling across the country to highlight projects like this that show the difference we can make if we invest in America and commit to the future — because just fixing what we have today isn’t going to help us meet the transportation needs of the future.”

The stop in Louisville was part of Foxx’s “Invest in America, Commit to the Future” bus tour, which will take him through eight states in five days. The tour includes visits to manufacturers, bridges, freight facilities and highway projects in an effort to raise awareness of America’s infrastructure needs, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Foxx touted the ORBP, and said that the new bridges will double the transportation capacity between Louisville and Southern Indiana when it’s completed at the end of 2016.

“Building these bridges will support more than 4,000 construction and engineering jobs, and that’s just the start,” Foxx said. “Over 15,000 additional jobs will be created over the next 30 years thanks to the economic growth this project generates. That is how transportation equals jobs.”

Foxx is working to bring awareness to the dwindling Highway Trust Fund, which is set to run out of money by the end of August.

“Throughout our history, Americans have always been able to leave their children a brighter future, thanks in part to the opportunities transportation has provided,” Foxx said. “We are at risk of failing our children. We need to not only invest in America, but commit to the future — not only rebuild and repair our roads and bridges, but reimagine how we do it.”

Beshear recalled the June 18 groundbreaking ceremony that kicked off the construction of the ORBP, and explained that the project would not have been possible without federal funding.

“You see, what most members of the general public don’t realize is that federal funding is a reimbursement process,” Beshear said. “Kentucky and other states first have to front the money, and then we rely on reimbursement from the federal government as we pay out on those contracts. We can’t afford another disruption of reimbursements like what happened back in 2008, and we certainly can’t afford for the highway trust fund to go insolvent, which could happen as early as this coming July unless Congress steps up.”