infrastructure

Ryland Barton

Kentucky’s top Republican and Democrat in Washington both voted for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, but they diverge on whether to move forward with a more expansive social spending package put forward by President Joe Biden.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth are central players in the battle over the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better plan, which includes funding for universal pre-K, another year of the expanded child tax credit, affordable housing and health care and combating climate change.

Yarmuth is the chair of the U.S. House Budget Committee and one of the bill’s main architects. McConnell is the chief signal caller of the effort to block it in the evenly-divided Senate.

Both saw signs supporting their causes in the outcome of last week’s gubernatorial election in Virginia.

Ryland Barton

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell celebrated the passage of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill on Monday, saying it could pave the way to fix the aging Brent Spence Bridge connecting northern Kentucky to Ohio.

McConnell was the only member of Kentucky’s Republican congressional delegation to vote in favor of the measure when the Senate passed it in August. Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth, of Louisville, also voted in favor of it.

“I was delighted the House finally found a way to pass the infrastructure bill last week,” McConnell said in Covington on Monday. “This will be the first time I have come up here in a quarter of a century where I thought maybe there was a way forward on the Brent Spence Bridge.”

The bridge connecting Covington to Cincinnati is a major artery on the I-71/75 corridor and has been in need of repairs for years. The Federal Highway Administration declared the bridge functionally obsolete in the 1990s.

Hayley Lynch, The Nature Conservancy

A partnership of state and federal conservation groups is celebrating the largest lock and dam removal in Kentucky history.

The removal of Green River Lock and Dam # 5 in Butler County has been in the making since 2015, with local government, environmental, and business groups pushing the effort.

A crew from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been working since June at the site, using heavy equipment to slowly remove the lock chamber where boats have passed through along the Green River.

An event Monday at the site of the dam was supposed to mark the beginning of the removal of actual dam, but that was postponed due to the rainy weather. 

David Phemister is the director of the Kentucky chapter of The Nature Conservancy, one of the groups that’s advocated for the removal.

Lisa Autry

All residents of Kentucky’s 5th largest county should have access to reliable, high-speed internet by the end of next year.  

A ribbon-cutting was held on Thursday for a broadband expansion project in Warren County.

Warren Rural Electric Cooperative and North Central Telephone Cooperative began a partnership in 2019 that has so far brought broadband access to rural areas of southeast Warren County.  On Thursday, local leaders celebrated an expansion of the project that will provide broadband to the final under-served parts of the county. 

“It’s a historic day in my mind for Warren County," said Wayne McDonald, President and CEO of Warren RECC.  "High speed internet service to the residents of Warren County, it’s not a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity for life.”

The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to invest $1 trillion in the nation's infrastructure, including the electric grid and broadband access.

The 69-30 vote was bipartisan, following weeks of talks that included the White House and a group of Democratic and Republican negotiators. Nineteen Republicans joined the Democratic caucus to pass the legislation.

Lisa Autry

Demand for vaccines has decreased in recent weeks and less than 50% of the U.S. population is full vaccinated.

While in Bowling Green Thursday, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell continued to encourage people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

During a Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce meeting, McConnell said the nation hasn’t reached the level of vaccination he’d like to see.

If you're a football fan, we're sort of in the red zone, the last 20 yards before the end zone, but not yet in the end zone on getting people vaccinated," McConnell said. "I hope even though we are all back to normal now, we'll still try to encrouge people to get the vaccination."

Wikimedia Commons

The beginning stages of a plan to bring high-speed, reliable internet access to homes and businesses is underway in Kentucky. 

The General Assembly this year approved $300 million for a "last mile" broadband expansion project that focuses on under-served areas of the state

State Budget Director John Hicks gave an update this week to the legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue. He said a Request for Information, or RFI, will be issued in a couple of weeks.

“It’s purpose is to ask the providers and municipalities, and other government agencies their ideas, comments and their suggestions," Hicks said. "We don’t know what we don’t know, and so we want to avail ourselves of their expertise before we finalize our process.”

Becca Schimmel

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won’t support President Joe Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure package, expressing worries about overspending and the national debt.

And while McConnell says he’s in favor of some form of infrastructure plan, he’s adamantly against undoing any of the tax cuts passed by Republicans in 2017, which significantly added to the national debt.

During a news conference in Louisville on Monday, McConnell criticized the president’s plan to fund the plan by scaling back tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals.

“We’re not going to be revisiting the 2017 tax bill. We’re happy to look for traditional infrastructure ‘pay-fors,’ which means the users participate,” McConnell said.

Stephanie Wolf

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear praised the Republican-led legislature for funding broadband, water and school construction projects with Kentucky’s share of the federal coronavirus relief package, saying it would create jobs and boost the state’s economy.

Lawmakers set aside $1.3 billion of stimulus money during this year’s legislative session—nearly half the total amount Kentucky state government will get from the federal package.

Beshear estimated the effort would create about 14,500 jobs and that legislators were off to a “good start.”

“It’s one of the first times we’ve been able to work together that closely, and I think it’s going to be good for everybody,” Beshear said.

Adam Schultz

President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan contains tens of billions of dollars to address environmental and economic issues throughout the Ohio Valley region, according to details released Wednesday by the White House.

Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, had promised a major infrastructure initiative, but one never got traction during his four years in office.

Speaking in Pittsburgh Wednesday, Biden called his plan the largest jobs investment since World War II. 

“It’s not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-generation investment in America, unlike anything we’ve seen or done since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago.”

Theresa Howard

Heavy rains have again caused major flooding in parts of eastern Kentucky, a region that has suffered three floods in just a little over a year. The high waters this weekend followed a round of severe flooding at the first of March. For some communities, including the city of Middlesboro in Bell County and the town of Neon in Letcher County, the high water mark exceeded that of the flooding of 2020.  

What once was a rare event is becoming commonplace, and many communities have found themselves repeatedly in the path of destruction. Some, like Mayor Rick Nelson of Middlesboro, are beginning to wonder what could be done to mitigate the problems before they happen.

Corinne Boyer

Katrina Bostrin had never seen the lake come up that quickly before. She’d lived in Jackson, the county seat of Breathitt County, Kentucky, on and off since she was a child. It had come up to the garage before, but never inside her home. 

As she spoke, a volunteer crew from a local church ripped out a ruined floor. They had just finished with the living room, where Katrina stood on the bare wooden subfloor. “This was where we celebrated Christmas every year,” she said, as afternoon light streamed in through the window. 

During the flood that started on the final weekend of February the water was six to eight inches deep indoors. Katrina and her two sons waded to her aunt’s house, but their trials weren’t over. “The next day,” she said, “that was when they came through, saying we had to evacuate immediately.” 

  

Benny Becker

The newest version of the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, is nearing final approval by the House before going to President Joe Biden. During his regular COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the state would receive $2.6 billion which would allow for a “once in a generation investment in infrastructure.” 

Beshear pointed to potential investments in broadband, water and sewer infrastructure and repairs and upgrades in areas that have been hit by flooding.

“When you look at those areas that experienced significant flooding, a lot of them have water and sewer projects that need to be done. The capacity was exceeded in a number of these towns,” Beshear said. “And we’d have a chance if we spend this right to help those areas be more resilient to these types of flash floods or other disasters in the future.”

Oakley Fugate | Appalshop

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear used his regular media briefing on coronavirus Tuesday to also provide an update on flooding that struck parts of the state.

Record rainfall has led to widespread property damage and evacuations in parts of the state. Beshear said Kentucky Emergency Management is evacuating 1,000 people from the town of Jackson in Breathitt County on Tuesday. The National Guard is assisting with evacuations.

Division of Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett said the flooding has postponed damage assessment from the February ice storm.

“This is truly a record breaking event. The water is still high. This one is not over at this point. Some of the river areas will be cresting on Saturday and Sunday,” Dossett said.

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