September 16, 2021 9:22am
Op-Ed: House action on infrastructure is critical to Louisville’s economic growth
This article originally appeared in the Louisville Courier-Journal on September 16, 2021
For most of us, infrastructure is a constant. You assume you will have access to safe and reliable roads and bridges to take you to work or on vacation. You assume water will come out of the faucet when you turn the handle, and you will connect to Wi-Fi as soon as you turn on the computer. And while you might notice the occasional pothole on the commute to work or back-ups on the bridge due to repairs, do you ever stop to think about the everyday wear and tear and lifespan of such a critical part of our daily lives and economy?
For too long, maintenance and improvements to our region’s infrastructure have been neglected. We have all experienced the minor inconveniences of road repaving or internet outages but continuing to kick the can on major improvements to our infrastructure could have catastrophic impacts on our community and our economy.
Our region is touted as a hub for logistics and manufacturing. Our central location puts companies within a two-day drive of the entire continental U.S. We are home to UPS Worldport which gives locally based companies access to efficient shipping across the globe. We are the convergence point of some of the nation’s largest interstates and offer access to a major tributary of the Mississippi River. Not to mention the railways that connect us with cities across the country. These are major selling points for companies considering moving their business to Louisville, but the infrastructure to connect these assets and offer reliable access is what can truly set us apart as a region.
More businesses coming to Louisville mean more investment in our community, more jobs, more amenities, and more opportunities. As e-commerce continues to boom, and more companies are looking for a location that will give them a competitive advantage in logistics, we have real potential to build a reputation as the epicenter of the supply chain. However, aging infrastructure that receives minimal maintenance and proactive care is a major deterrent for companies who prioritize efficiency and reliability. To actualize the potential of our economy, immediate investment in our region’s infrastructure is critical.
The infrastructure package that now awaits action from the U.S. House of Representatives will provide much of this vital funding and address many of these long-overdue projects. While it is too soon to know exactly how these funds will be distributed throughout the Commonwealth and here in Greater Louisville, as the economic engine of the state Louisville would expect significant investment.
The package that passed the Senate would provide approximately $4.6 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $438 million for bridge replacement and repairs in Kentucky. The state would also receive $391 million to improve public transportation options, and $204 million for infrastructure development in our airports. Not to mention investments in other pieces of infrastructure like cybersecurity protections, weatherization, broadband expansion, and electric vehicle charging stations.
This is not just about keeping things moving smoothly, it is about driving, flying, and shipping our economy and our region to the next level. We have already heard about Amtrak’s plans to add passenger rail services to Louisville with funding from this package, and there are many other innovative possibilities that could result from the largest long-term investment in infrastructure in a century.
We were pleased with the Senate’s action to advance the package and applaud U.S. Senate Republic Leader McConnell for his bipartisan collaboration and leadership. Now, we are calling on Congressman Yarmuth and the U.S. House of Representatives to swiftly pass this bill so we can continue paving our future as a hub for connectivity and mobility.
Shelby Williams Somervell is the vice president of government affairs and communications for Greater Louisville Inc.