Improving our transportation network is one of the most effective ways to promote economic growth and prosperity.
Southern and eastern Kentucky have a critical need for new roads and improved access. By working together with local, state, and federal officials, we have made numerous improvements to our transportation network, and I will continue to work with these parties to advocate for future projects that will benefit those in our region.
For nearly two decades, I have been a strong advocate of Interstate 66, which provides Kentuckians with a crucial east-west highway connecting eastern and western Kentucky. Studies have shown that interstate routes pay huge economic dividends for the communities and regions they connect. I-66 provides our citizens with better access to health care, opens our communities to tourism, and provides additional supply lines for the new businesses we work to attract. Increasing access to highways in Appalachia can reduce travel time and costs for businesses, and is estimated to produce over 80,000 jobs and billions in economic impact 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.
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. I was also proud to secure funding for 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 the region to tourists and new businesses.
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 provided long-term certainty and delivers significant flexibility to state and local governments. The comprehensive piece of legislation addressed roads, bridges, and railroads which are all in desperate need of updating. The legislation also made key reforms to these programs in order to make sure your hard-earned tax dollars are spent more wisely. This legislation presented a great opportunity to increase safety and mobility, promote economic development and create jobs across our region.
Additionally, during the 115th Congress, we successfully passed a new authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration. This legislation included a five-year reauthorization and provided the longest period of stability to our national aviation programs since 1982. The United States has the most complex, largest and most heavily traveled aviation system in the world, and this legislation improves aviation safety for over 900 million passengers who fly in the United States each year.
I am proud to have worked with my colleagues in Congress - on a bipartisan basis - to pass bills like these that provide robust investment in infrastructure and provide long-term stability for our nation’s, and our region’s, transportation infrastructure. I will continue to advocate for efforts like these, including those that benefit southern and eastern Kentucky, in the future.