Distributing even more funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Biden administration has announced the award of $2.1 billion in grants for four major bridge projects through the statute’s competitive Bridge Investment Program.
To announce the awards of the program's initial round, President Joe Biden and other top administration officials on Jan. 4 visited the locations of projects selected for grants from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration.
By far the largest award is $1.385 billion to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for a reconfiguring of the Brent Spence Bridge that carries Interstate-75 and I-71 over the Ohio River between Kentucky and Ohio. Plans include construction of a new bridge just west of the existing one.
The project’s total cost is estimated at nearly $3 billion. Besides the new grant, the project also is receiving $642 million in other federal funds, including $275 million from the IIJA Mega projects category and $367 million in formula funds, according to FHWA.
Speaking on Jan. 4 near the bridge site on the banks of the Ohio, Biden noted that the present bridge was built in 1963 and now carries 160,000 vehicles per day, twice the volume it was designed to carry.
Biden said, "The funding from this infrastructure law is going to upgrade the current bridge and to build a second new bridge right next to it for Interstate traffic." He added, "That will keep local traffic ... from competing with those massive trucks and freight [traffic]."
Brent Spence Bridge Funding a "Legislative Miracle"
In a gesture of bipartisanship, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also spoke, saying that getting funding for the Brent Spence Bridge project approved was "literally a legislative miracle."
McConnell said, "We all know these are really partisan times. But I always feel no matter who gets elected, once it's all over, we ought to look for things we can agree on and try to do those, even while we have big differences on other things."
The Bridge Investment Program’s large bridge grants are for projects whose costs exceed $100 million. The minimum grant size is $50 million and the grants are limited to 50% of a project’s total costs.
Competition for the grants was strong: FHWA received 40 applications requesting a total of $11.4 billion, an agency spokesperson told ENR.
said that for the initial round of grants, “priority consideration was given to projects ready to proceed to construction, as well a those that require pre-construction funding and would benefit from a multi-year agreement.”
Golden Gate Seismic Retrofit
Among the other winning projects was a $400-million grant was awarded to the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District in California. It will go toward the final phase of a seismic retrofit program for the iconic span between San Francisco and Marin County.
According to FHWA, seismic retrofits on the bridge’s north and south approaches took place in 2013. The last phase is to retrofit the main suspension span.The agency says the bridge is rated to be in fair condition but would worsen to poor condition without the retrofit.
FHWA said the project’s total cost is estimated at $906.4 million. It also is receiving $304.7 million in federal formula funds.
The Connecticut Dept. of Transportation won a $158-million grant to rehabilitate the Gold Star Memorial Bridge, which carries traffic on Interstate-95 over the Thames River between New London and Groton, Conn.
The bridge is rated in poor condition, due to the state of its deck and superstructure, FHWA says. The Connecticut project also is receiving $126.5 million in formula funds. Its total cost is estimated at $327.4 million, FHWA says.
The City of Chicago is receiving a $144-million grant to upgrade four bascule bridges over the Calumet River on the city’s South Side. The project also is receiving $86.4 million in federal formula funds. Its estimated total cost is $302 million.
FHWA says the four bridges are rated as being in poor condition, with one currently load-restricted.
Besides the four major bridge construction grants, FHWA awarded a $1.6-million planning grant to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the envisioned replacement of the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges that span the Cape Cod Canal.
Mass DOT Disappointed
But Massachusetts officials were disappointed that FHWA denied a Corps of Engineers application for a Bridge Investment Program grant for construction of the replacement bridges. The Corps, which built operates and maintains the bridges, had sought a $1.9 billion grant, according to the Massachusetts DOT.
MassDOT spokesperson Jacqueline Goddard said in a Jan. 4 statement, "The Cape Cod Bridges are federal assets and the responsibility to replace them lies with the [Corps of Engineers].
Goddard added, "MassDOT will continue to pursue every possible avenue to support the [Corps'] efforts to secure federal discretionary funds to replace the bridges."
The IIJA provides $40 billion over five years for the Bridge Investment Program, which aims to assist in funding the repairs or reconstruction of 10 major bridges.
The Jan. 4 events and press releases marked a formal nationwide announcement of the grants but governors, U.S. Senators and other lawmakers had released the news in late December. See the Dec. 29 release from McConnell and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) here regarding the awards.
Story updated on 1/5/2022 with number of applicants for the grants and total dollars requested.