Improving our transportation network is one of the most effective ways to promote economic growth and prosperity, and I have worked to ensure that a fair share of federal gasoline tax dollars return to Kentucky.
Nowhere is the need for new roads and improved aviation access more apparent than in southern and eastern Kentucky. By working together with local, state, and federal officials, we have made numerous improvements to our transportation network. During my time in Congress, I have helped direct more than $100 million in funding for Kentucky’s Appalachian Highways. These dollars have helped transform several roads in our region, including a section of U.S. 119 over Pine Mountain in Letcher County, which was once considered one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in the Commonwealth. Another project that I proudly helped secure funding for was the Cumberland Gap Tunnels. After more than two decades of work, the $280 million Cumberland Gap Tunnels opened to a great celebration. The twin tunnels now safely carry thousands of cars along U.S. 25E between Kentucky and Tennessee each day, and have opened up the region to tourists and new businesses.
I am also a chief advocate of Interstate 66 which provides Kentuckians with a crucial east-west highway connecting the coal fields of eastern Kentucky to the corn fields of western Kentucky. Studies have shown that interstate routes pay huge economic dividends for the communities and regions they connect, and I-66 provides our citizens with better access to health care, opens our communities to tourists and travel dollars, and provides additional supply lines for the new businesses we are working to attract. Studies have shown that increasing access to highways in Appalachia can reduce travel time and costs for businesses and is estimated to produce over 80,000 jobs in the coming decades with an additional $5 billion added to the economy each year. Interstates like I-66 also improve safety for people traveling in and around the area, by providing a wide, well-maintained thoroughfare.
For the first time in a more than a decade, the 114th Congress was able to pass a long-term transportation bill that reauthorizes critical programs that allow states like Kentucky to continue to improve and build roadways, bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure projects. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act gives long-term certainty and delivers significant flexibility to state and local governments. The comprehensive piece of legislation addresses roads, bridges, and railroads which are all in desperate need of updating. The legislation also makes key reforms to these programs in order to make sure your hard-earned tax dollars are spent more wisely. This legislation presents a great opportunity to increase safety and mobility, promote economic development and create jobs across our region. I am proud to have worked with my colleagues in Congress - on a bipartisan basis - to pass legislation that gives these infrastructure programs robust and long-term stability so that these important projects in Kentucky’s Fifth Congressional District will continue.