Congress has passed a 5-year transportation plan that includes $305 billion in spending marking the first time in a decade that a plan of this duration has been enacted. The 1,300 page bill includes directives for spending federal highway dollars on construction, highway and rail safety, development of freight infrastructure programs, and public transportation enhancements and includes provisions for improving transparency of the Federal-aid Highway Program. The president is expected to sign the bill into law.
“This bipartisan, long-term highway and transportation bill which I helped shepherd through the Senate provides five years of guaranteed funding and stability for interstate highway projects and gives state and local governments more flexibility in how they spend federal transportation dollars. And most importantly, it would also support jobs in Kentucky and across the nation as these and other important infrastructure projects get underway,” Senator McConnell added.
The bill also provides a 5-year reauthorization of the Export Import bank—a federal agency that enables exporting opportunities for U.S. businesses by provides financing solutions—and retains the current federal gas tax of 18.4 cents a gallon. The Kentucky Chamber supported reauthorization of the bank.
Kentucky-specific provisions of the bill include designation of the existing Natcher Parkway between Bowling Green and Owensboro as an official Spur of I-65 in an effort to help attract additional economic development to the region. The bill also authorizes $50 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission to provide grants, technical assistance, training and equipment to the Appalachian region in an effort to increase affordable access to broadband networks, distance learning opportunities, telehealth technologies, and promote e-commerce applications.
The agreement establishes new grant programs for improving freight infrastructure emphasizing the importance of freight movement to the U.S. Economy. These programs will facilitate completion of projects that are more difficult to build with existing resources thereby eliminating bottlenecks and increasing freight capacity. As Kentucky businesses continue to manufacture and transport important goods across the U.S., emphasis on efficiency and investment in infrastructure will be important to increasing output.
“The Chamber commends congress for coming to an agreement on a long-term solution for funding transportation. Investment in our transportation infrastructure is critical to our economic growth and expansion,” Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson said in a statement.