Roads, bridges, trails, ports: White House awards $2.2B in transportation grants

In Kentucky, Jackson will receive $21.1 million to widen a highway

By: - June 28, 2023 5:50 am

Panbowl Lake in Jackson was formed in 1963 when the North Fork of the Kentucky River was dammed due to the construction of KY 15. The lake is narrow, but deep and about 7 miles long and is abundant in bass and crappie. (Photo by Kentucky Tourism)

The U.S. Department of Transportation will send more than $2.2 billion in grants to state, tribal and local governments under a grant program that was expanded under the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law.

In Kentucky, the city of Jackson, the Breathitt County seat, will receive $21.1 million to widen a highway near Panbowl Lake. The area has been hit with severe flooding recently. The project will help improve resiliency to future floods, said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Panbowl Lake was formed in 1963 when the North Fork of the Kentucky River was dammed to accommodate construction of KY 15 which links Jackson and Hazard, according to the Kentucky Tourism website.

Buttigieg is scheduled to be in Lexington Thursday “to highlight a major infrastructure announcement,” according to a media advisory from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The $2.26 billion for 162 projects provides funds for each of the 50 states, two territories and the District of Columbia. It is similar to the allocation for the grant program last year, the first after President Joe Biden signed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law that added funding for the program.

(Getty Images)

The projects include improvements and expansions of roads, rail, bridges, pedestrian trails and maritime infrastructure.

The Transportation Department has managed a similar discretionary grant program since 2010, though the name of the program and criteria have changed with each presidential administration. Funding levels, set by Congress, also vary year to year, ranging from roughly $500 million to more than $2 billion in each of the two years since the infrastructure law passed.

Under Biden, the department has prioritized projects that advance climate goals, racial equity and safety.

Local input

In a call with reporters previewing the announcement Tuesday, Buttigieg emphasized that all the projects were proposed and planned by local authorities.

“It is particularly focused on communities’ needs,” he said. “We don’t design the projects at headquarters. We are proceeding very much on the idea that the answers don’t all come from Washington, but more of the funding should.”

No project received more than $25 million from the program, the maximum for projects of less than $45 million total cost.  The department selected 22 projects to receive that maximum.

The funding is split between rural and urban projects, White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu told reporters.

Most of the funding — 70% — will go toward either areas of persistent poverty or historically disadvantaged communities. That represented a record high for the program, Buttigieg said.

Many of the communities that received funding had sought federal help for the projects for years, Buttigieg said. The department will work with communities that submitted highly rated proposals that were not accepted in this round to improve their applications for future years, he said.

About 10 projects that received grants this year had applied last year, Assistant Secretary of Transportation Policy Christopher Coes said.

Buttigieg and Landrieu highlighted a handful of projects, including the one in Breathitt County, on Tuesday’s call.

Iowa will receive $24.7 million to rebuild nine bridges in rural areas. The bridges’ poor condition forces detours for residents and commercial drivers, according to a DOT news release. The federal government will pay for most of those bridge repairs, estimated to total about $31 million.

An Atlanta trail project was among those receiving $25 million. The project, which has a total cost of $70.7 million, will add 4.8 miles to the BeltLine Northeast Trail, which is accessible to pedestrians and bicycles. The project will improve access to transit and to jobs, schools and other services in an area with 5,000 affordable housing units nearby.

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Jacob Fischler
Jacob Fischler

Jacob covers federal policy as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Based in Oregon, he focuses on Western issues. His coverage areas include climate, energy development, public lands and infrastructure.