Kentucky Begins $30 Million Road Project at Owensboro Port

Project Will Widen 2-Mile Section on Kentucky Route 331 and Rinaldo Road That Links to River Port
Groundbreaking at Kentucky river port project
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (fifth from left) joined state officials in breaking ground on a $30 million highway expansion project for the Owensboro Riverport Authority. (Owensboro Riverport Authority via Facebook)

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Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear joined state officials in breaking ground on a $30 million highway expansion project for the Owensboro Riverport Authority, the state’s largest inland port and shipping hub to domestic and international markets.

Beshear said the project, which will widen a 2-mile section on Kentucky Route 331 and Rinaldo Road that links to the river port, will ease congestion and support regional economic growth while increasing safety and improving local traffic flows.

“Across the commonwealth, we are securing infrastructure updates that have only been talked about for decades, and I want to thank folks at the Owensboro Riverport for their partnership in getting this massive project off the ground,” Beshear said Aug. 3. Few improvements have been made to KY 331 since the Owensboro Riverport ­­opened in 1976 despite increased traffic.

“Safety on our streets and roads, together with economic development and job creation, have consistently been among the highest priorities of Gov. Beshear and this administration,” remarked Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray. “Both priorities intersect in this project at the Owensboro Riverport.”

Funding for the project consists of federal, state and local grants, including $11.5 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation, $15.3 million from Kentucky and $3.2 million in local matching funds.

The area around the Owensboro port on the Ohio River, including Kentucky Route 331 and Rinaldo Road, both of which will be widened. (Google Maps)

The improvements will include the addition of a center turn lane on KY 331 along with widening Rinaldo Road — which is owned by the riverport — to three lanes at the northernmost entry from KY 331 to the rail load out.

“The Owensboro Riverport Authority Board is excited to see this ‘last mile’ connector of Interstate to river/rail come to fruition for our community and the riverport,” said Brian Wright, port president. “We are thankful for the continuous support throughout this project from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the USDOT Maritime Administration, as we have navigated through a pandemic and encountered many obstacles along the way. To be going into construction is a true testament to the accomplishments that can be achieved through the collaboration and partnerships of federal, state and local entities.”

Owensboro Mayor Tom Watson called the river port “one of our prize economic development tools.” He said the grant will help improve transportation safety in the entire area.

In a related announcement, Beshear on July 5 said that $500,000 in state grants were being awarded to four Kentucky river ports, including the Owensboro Riverport Authority, for needed infrastructure and equipment upgrades to improve operations and access to river ports.

The Owensboro Riverport Authority received more than $130,000 to two buy forklifts to help raise and lower aluminum and steel loads along with more than $31,000 to purchase a new compact track loader for handling material and for unloading aluminum and steel from barges and railcars.

Of these grants, Wright said, “The Owensboro Riverport Authority serves the growing aluminum industry in Kentucky by handling over 500,000 short tons of aluminum annually. These state funds will provide a portion of the necessary dollars needed to replace aging handling equipment utilized daily to promote our mission of multimodal optimization across the state.” He added, “Riverports are essential to Kentucky’s economic development success.”

Other funds included about $184,000 granted to the Eddyville Riverport and Industrial Development Authority on Lake Barkley to buy an excavator for material loading/unloading and to help expand operations. The rural river port, located along Interstate 69, primarily supports the regional agricultural industry through inbound fertilizer distribution and outbound commodity movements. The region has over 2,000 farms.

The Paducah-McCracken County Riverport Authority will receive $30,510 to help fund replacement of two deteriorated entryways and aprons to provide increased access to storage yards. At the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, the river port can handle a wide range of commodities, including containerized, break-bulk and bulk cargoes. It can also store cargoes on terminal or in terminal warehouse facilities.

Paducah-McCracken County Riverport

At the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, the Paducah-McCracken County Riverport can handle a wide range of commodities, including containerized, break-bulk and bulk cargoes. (Paducah-McCracken County Riverport Authority via Facebook)

The Henderson County Riverport Authority, on the Ohio River in Western Kentucky, was granted $122,000 to buy a new truck scale to improve access for trucks. The site handles bulk cargo such as coal, coke, gravel, sand, lime, fertilizers and grains, packed products like steel pipe, steel wire rod, aluminum and zinc, and finished manufactured goods.

A few months ago, the main dock at this site handled unloading of a 105-ton boiler evaporator that was being delivered to a paper plant under construction. Sterett Crane and Rigging used a 500-ton lift capacity crane brought specifically for the job to lift the evaporator from a barge and load it onto a truck and trailer for delivery to the paper plant site.

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