Owensboro Riverport Authority wins $11.5 million grant

December 6, 2018 | 5:01 pm

Updated December 6, 2018 | 5:02 pm

Pictured at today's announcement are Daviess County Judge Executive Al Mattingly, Chairman of the Riverport Riverport Authority and President of Independence Bank Jacob Reid, CEO of Owensboro Riverport Brian Wright, Mayor Tom Watson | Photo by AP Imagery

The Owensboro Riverport Authority will be widening Industrial Drive (Kentucky 331), improving both safety and access, in the near future. It was announced today that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell awarded the Owensboro Riverport Authority with an $11.52 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) “Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development” (BUILD) grant program.

After three years of applying for the grant, city and county leaders are enthusiastic that this grant will better the community in a number of ways. Moreover, they are excited to see that a road so heavily used will finally become safer for those traveling it.

A media statement released by McConnell says that although commercial traffic along Industrial Drive “delivers more than one million tons of products to the riverport each year, the existing infrastructure has no shoulders, visibility issues, and many utility poles within feet of the road. Even more concerning, the southern end of the roadway presents potential safety issues for residents and local businesses.”

Mayor Tom Watson, Daviess County Judge Executive Al Mattingly, CEO of Owensboro Riverport Brian Wright and Chairman of the Riverport Riverport Authority and President of Independence Bank Jacob Reid were all present at a press conference held at Owensboro City Hall, celebrating the $11.5 million grant.

Mayor Watson said the grant has been a process to win, but thanked Senator McConnell and the Department of Transportation for establishing a great relationship with Owensboro officials during the process of working toward the grant.

“We’ve got great engineering, we’ve put together a good plan, and we’ve been working on this one for 10 to 11 months,” Mayor Watson said. “We’re very excited because we think it’ll do wonders for that riverport and, also, it’s a safety factor along 331 for the people who live out there.”

Mayor Watson also commended management at the riverport for being so well managed, adding to the allure for federal and state officials to award it with such a prolific grant.

“A big part of this thing was how well the riverport has been managed and is being managed, seriously,” Mayor Watson said. “We’ve got a good team out there, and we’re very supportive of what they’re doing.”

Mattingly said the widening of Kentucky 331 and the updated infrastructure that will come from the grant will make it easier for materials and finished goods to be transported to the riverport.

“[Goods] can be shipped anywhere in the U.S.–forget the U.S., they can be shipped anywhere in the world,” Mattingly said. “Barge traffic is the cheapest mode of transportation there is. So, the fact that we have here in Owensboro that modality to do those kinds of things–it’s wonderful.”

Wright mentioned that the widening of Kentucky 331 has been a long time coming because of the amount of traffic it already sees on a daily basis. Transforming what is currently a rural, narrow road into a wider, newer road will not only lessen safety concerns for truckers and those transporting goods, but it’ll be much more appealing for anyone who frequents the area.

“If you look at the movement of 4,500 to 5,000 vehicles a day–of that, 45 percent of them are large trucks that are hauling 20 to 25 tons apiece, and if you take 331 from 60, it’s an old, rural road that needs to be expanded to accommodate all the industries,” Wright said. “[There are] roughly 13 industries that exist in that industrial park — we’re just one portion of that and happen to be at the very end. But this helps all the industries up and down 331.”

All four said the grant will allow for more economic development in Owensboro. By allowing more traffic to come and go more frequently and with less issues, the economy will be boosted in a number of ways.

“The Ohio River is really our four-lane highway,” Mayor Watson said. “With an asset like the riverport, it’s going to make more traffic up and down through there and bring Owensboro out in being a place to locate.”

Wright agrees that the with a new look and design for the road leading up to the riverport being widened and it’s entryway being redesigned, a lot could change for the City of Owensboro.

“With that new entry going into, not only the riverport, but all the industries around — to me, it’s going to provide a better opportunity from the economic development side, to look for companies that are interested in multi-moto — river, rail and the interstate,” Wright said.

December 6, 2018 | 5:01 pm

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