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August 27, 2018 4:00 PM, EDT

Elaine Chao, Local Leaders Announce INFRA Grant in Northern Kentucky

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Chao at a Senate hearing earlier this year. (Zach Gibson/Bloomberg News)

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao joined local lawmakers in her home state of Kentucky in celebrating a recently awarded federal grant that will be used to improve an interchange linking two interstates.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet received a $67 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant to construct auxiliary lanes and a new “double crossover diamond” interchange on a portion of road where interstates 75 and 71 overlap. The two routes share a 20-mile segment of roadway in Boone County, which toes Kentucky’s northern border with Ohio in Cincinnati.

The overall projected cost of the interchange improvements is $150 million, the majority of which is supported through the INFRA grant and other federal funds. Some 25% of the project is bolstered by state and local money.

“These investments in key infrastructure for Northern Kentucky will increase economic development, improve the quality of life and help create jobs for the hard-working people of this region,” Chao said alongside Kentucky’s Transportation Secretary Greg Thomas and other state leaders during the event on Aug. 24.

Also known as a diverging diamond interchange, the double crossover facilitates left-turning movements onto arterial roads while eliminating the need for a left-turn signal at signalized ramp terminal intersections, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

There are fewer than 100 double crossover diamond interchanges in the United States, just one of which exists in Kentucky, according to a press release issued by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

“The [double crossover diamond] is really a great alternative for both of these interchanges,” Thomas said. “With the growing vehicle traffic in this region, DCDs efficiently use taxpayer resources to improve safety and travel time.”

Boone County is among the fastest growing in the state. Its population of 120,000 is expected to double by 2050, the state said. Several large companies, including Amazon.com, Kroger Co. and FedEx Corp., have announced that they are expanding into the area.

According to the transportation cabinet’s engineering study, average daily traffic on the eastbound side of I-75 in this area is projected to grow from 18,000 vehicles to 52,000 vehicles by 2030.

“We are thrilled to have Secretary Elaine Chao here to recognize the $67 million dollar INFRA federal transportation grant award,” said Gary Moore, judge executive for Boone County. “This critical infrastructure project will not only reduce traffic congestion and enhance safety, it will also continue to encourage private investment and job growth along this corridor and support a dynamic economy here in Boone County.”

Kentucky is the latest stop Chao has made to formally announce a new INFRA grant. Her husband is U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who represents Kentucky.

The INFRA program makes $1.5 billion available to support highway and bridge projects nationwide. Award winners were announced in early June.

The I-71/I-75 interchange project is one of 26 that received grants. Chao was in New Orleans in early August to announce the Belle Chasse Bridge and Tunnel Replacement project that received funding.

Kentucky’s grant qualifies as a “large project” because the award sum is larger than $25 million. Other large projects awarded include a $160 million grant that will expand the I-94 North-South Freeway near Milwaukee, a $132 million grant to improve rail connections in the Chicago area and a $65 million grant to widen an 18-mile portion of I-25 in Colorado.