TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE PRIORITIES
Funding for transportation infrastructure maintenance and construction is one of the primary concerns for local communities, states, and the nation. Currently, our infrastructure is in major disrepair, presenting safety concerns for travelers and challenges for our businesses. For these reasons, local, state and federal officials are searching for new revenue sources to make the needed repairs and improvements. State Legislatures and Congress are discussing increasing the gasoline taxes. In Frankfort this year legislation was introduced to increase the gas tax, raise existing fees and create some new ones but it did not receive the necessary votes for passage. Public – private partnerships are also on the table for some projects.
PRIORITY PROJECT #1: INTERSTATE 69
- Designated as one of only six “Corridors of the Future” by the US Department of Transportation
- Includes seven states
- Covers more than 2,600 miles
- Seventeen of the nation’s top 25 seaports are directly connected to I-69.
- Fifteen of the nation’s top 25 air cargo airports are directly accessible to I-69.
- Feasibility studies show I-69 will return $1.63 for every dollar invested.
- From Houston to Indianapolis, I-69 will create 27,000 jobs, add $11 billion in wages and produce $19 billion in value-added through 2025.
- Kentucky is the “heart” of the corridor.
Interstate 69 in Kentucky is in its final phases of construction with progress being made on the 2 remaining major projects (Evansville – Henderson Bridge and Kentucky – Tennessee connection at Fulton in western Kentucky).
PRIORITY PROJECT #2: INLAND WATERWAYS
- Inland waterway system includes 2,000 miles of commercially navigable channels and 240 lock sites.
- Kentucky Lock is the gateway for 12 locks located upstream on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.
- The original 110’ x 600’ lock was put into temporary duty in 1942 with temporary gates; it went into full operation with permanent gates and impounded pool in September 1944. Currently undersized with the standard lock size being 110’ x 1200.’
- Estimated 52-54 million tons will pass through the lock by 2020. This could significantly increase as a result of the opening in June 2016 of the expanded Panama Canal which allowed Super-Panamax ships through the canal.
- The new size freighters that can carry 12,000 TEUs each from Asia were currently restricted to the west coast because they were too large to transit the canal.
- The new locks at the Panama Canal allow the largest ships to transit to the Gulf of Mexico and berth in either New Orleans or Mobile, Alabama. This significantly increased the amount of containers heading north into the heartland of America as well as increasing the opportunity for Midwest producers to ship their products overseas in an economical way.
- With Paducah being the furthest northern 12-month port in the inland waterway system, there is potential for western Kentucky to be a hub for this increased activity. The Paducah – McCracken County Riverport has received its Foreign Trade Zone and Container-on-Barge designations and is making the upgrades to handle large containers.
- Key for this development is the improvement currently underway at Kentucky Lock and Dam.
- At this time, the Kentucky Lock is at 90% capacity and the current delay to lock is 8-10 hours– near the highest in the nation.
- Construction of a new 110’ x 1200’ lock began in 1999. The construction has lagged and is behind schedule. It is crucial that construction stays on schedule to relieve congestion and increase traffic flow through western Kentucky.
Although some challenges occurred during the construction of the expansion of the Panama Canal, the Canal opened on June 26, 2016. The expansion doubled the Canal’s capacity. On March 2, 2018, the Panama Canal Authority announced that 3,000 new Panamax ships had crossed the canal expansion during its first 20 months of operation.
On May 15, 2019, the Panama Canal completed a trial transit of Evergreen’s Triton, the largest vessel in dimension and container cargo capacity to pass through the Expanded Canal since it opened in June 2016.
The Neopanamax containership Triton, which has a Total TEU Allowance (TTA) of 15,313, a 20-row beam of 51.2 meters and a length of 369 meters, transited northbound from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.
With the increase in size of the ships transporting products to and out of the United States, it is imperative that local riverports are prepared to handle the large containers and increased cargo to assist their existing industries and for the recruitment of additional job opportunities.
PRIORITY PROJECT #3: DOE PADUCAH SITE CLEANUP
In 2013 the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP), formerly the United States Enrichment Corporation, ceased production and was returned to the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) in October 2014 for decommissioning and deactivation. Covering 750 acres, the PGDP was constructed from 1951-1956 as part of a U.S. Government program to produce highly enriched uranium to fuel military reactors and produce nuclear weapons. Enrichment at Paducah was limited to low levels. The plant served as a “feed facility” for other defense plants in Oak Ridge, TN and Piketon, OH. PGDP began enriching uranium in September 1952. With employment ranging from 1,200 – 2,200 people during its years of continuous operation. In the 1960’s its mission changed to enriching uranium for use in supplying fuel rods to the nation’s 104 nuclear power reactors as well as providing enriched uranium to foreign customers. Two power plants were built specifically to provide energy to the plant.
DOE oversees environmental cleanup activities at the site, including environmental remediation, waste management, depleted uranium conversion, and decontamination and decommissioning. The goal of the environmental cleanup program is to evaluate and take appropriate actions to ensure protection of human health and the environment. The cleanup program supports site investigations, environmental response actions, and decommissioning and decontamination (D&D) of inactive facilities. The cleanup at the Paducah site is scheduled to be completed in 2065.
The Paducah community, with suppport from the WKRCA, continues to work with our Congressional delegation and DOE to encourage the funding levels for the Paducah site remain consistent and increase as possible in order that D & D may be completed in a timely manner and the site is ready for re-industrialization.