4 bridges to receive $2.1 billion in first round of bridge project grants

By Catrin Jones and Jenny LescohierJanuary 10, 2023

Expert Q&A The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration has announced the first round of Large Bridge Project Grants funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (Photo: AdobeStock)

Four U.S. bridges are set to receive much-needed repairs and improvements thanks to the first round of Large Bridge Project Grants from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law‘s competitive Bridge Investment Program

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced the first projects in the program which is reported to be one part of the largest dedicated investment in highway bridges since the construction of the Interstate highway system.

Approximately $40 billion over five years will help repair or rebuild 10 of the most economically significant bridges in the country, along with thousands of other bridges.

The FHWA stated in a press release that these grants will fund construction for four projects. Improvements to these bridges will address significant safety issues for drivers and delays in the movement of freight that currently raise costs for users.

“Safe, modern bridges ensure that first responders can get to calls more quickly, shipments reach businesses on time, and drivers can get to where they need to go,” said Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Transportation Secretary.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is proud to award this historic funding to modernize large bridges that are not only pillars of our economy, but also iconic symbols of their states’ past and future.”

The First Large Bridge Project Grants, awarded in Fiscal Year 2022 are:

1. Brent Spence Bridge - The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will receive $1.385 billion to rehabilitate and reconfigure the existing Brent Spence Bridge to improve interstate and local traffic flow between the interconnected Kentucky and Ohio communities on either side of the Ohio River. The current bridge is the second worst truck bottleneck in the nation and carries more than $400 billion in freight per year.

The project includes construction of a new companion bridge immediately west of the existing bridge to accommodate interstate through traffic on two bridge decks, and complete reconstruction of eight-mile interstate approach corridors both in Ohio and Kentucky, replacing 54 additional bridges. The project will separate I-75 traffic from local traffic, making commutes quicker and improving freight passage along this critical corridor.

2. Golden Gate Bridge - The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District in California will receive $400 million to replace, retrofit and install critical structural elements on the Golden Gate Bridge to increase resiliency against earthquakes. The Golden Gate Bridge is vital to an estimated 37 million vehicles crossing the bridge per year, including 555,000 freight trucks, as well as waterborne commerce through the Golden Gate Strait connected to the Port of Oakland.

The improvements will ensure the structural integrity of a vital transportation link between San Francisco and Marin County. This bridge allows for the movement of people and freight along the California Coast and is a critical link for bicyclist and pedestrian traffic in the region.

3. Gold Star Memorial Bridge - The Connecticut Department of Transportation will receive $158 million to rehabilitate the northbound structure of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge, which is part of the Interstate 95 corridor over the Thames River between New London and Groton, Connecticut.

The bridge carries five lanes of traffic and 42,600 vehicles per day and is a vital connection on the I-95 corridor for people and goods traveling between New York and New England. The rehabilitation will address structural repairs, increase load capacity and eliminate a load restriction for overweight vehicles. Additionally, the project will add a new multi-use path to foster bike-sharing and pedestrian access to transit services.

4. Calumet River bridges in Chicago - The City of Chicago, Illinois, will receive $144 million to rehabilitate four bridges over the Calumet River on the Southside of Chicago. The Calumet River connects Lake Michigan with the Lake Calumet Port District which is further connected to the Illinois River providing access to the Gulf of Mexico.

Each bridge lifts an average of 5,000 times per year, providing continuous and safe access for marine traffic to and from the Port and surrounding industry.

Rehabilitating these bridges ensures that communities on either side of the river remain connected and the bridges continue to function to allow barge and ship traffic to traverse to the Illinois International Port and beyond. The project will eliminate a load restriction and truck detours. It will also add dedicated bike lanes and improved sidewalks to support community connections.

In addition to the four FY22 Large Bridge Project Grants, FHWA also announced an additional Bridge Planning grant to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the amount of $1.6 million to advance critical planning work in support of replacement of the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges over the Cape Cod Canal. The project will improve the flow of roadway traffic between Cape Code and mainland Massachusetts.

The bridges provide the only means of vehicular access across the canal. The bridges are currently in poor and fair condition, at risk of falling into poor condition. Replacing these bridges will improve their condition and provide for bicycle and pedestrian access, eliminating a gap in the current network. This $1.6 million planning grant comes in addition to $18.4 million in Bridge Planning Grants awarded in Fall 2022.

Large Bridge Project Grants under the Bridge Investment Program are available for bridges with total eligible project costs over $100 million, with minimum grant awards of $50 million, and maximum grant awards of 50 percent of the total eligible project costs. As part of the selection process for this first round of grants, priority consideration was given to projects ready to proceed to construction, as well as those that require pre-construction funding and would benefit from a multi-year grant agreement.

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