U.S. Secretary Elaine Chao brings $67.5 million for upgrades on I-71/75 in No. Kentucky

FLORENCE, Ky. -- U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao visited Northern Kentucky Friday afternoon to award the region $67.5 million in federal grants for road improvements near the increasingly congested Interstate 71/75 corridor.

The money -- which comes from a U.S. Department of Transportation Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant -- will go toward reconfiguring the interchanges at Mt. Zion Road in Florence and at Richwood Road in Walton. It will replace a traditional diamond-shaped interchange with a newer configuration to reduce congestion near and along the entrance and exit ramps to the interstate.

The work, Chao said, is to ensure safer and quicker travel times along what she referred to as "this vital, vital freight corridor."

"As we all know, Northern Kentucky is one of our nation's largest logistical hubs," Chao said before an audience of local government and business leaders and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet employees. "It's really vital to our country. In fact, some refer to this region as the 'Silicon Valley of logistics.'"

The investment will attract even more logistical companies to the area, too, and that means more jobs, Chao said.

"That's what the president is always talking about."

Chao was joined by U.S. Representative Thomas Massie, R-Garrison, who also made sure to connect the grant to President Donald Trump's agenda: "INFRA stands for Infrastructure for (Rebuilding) America -- making America great again, as it were," Massie said.

Chao said the grant for Boone County was one of roughly 20 awarded across the country out of more than 200 applications.

Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore said the project is vital to the county's economic growth.

"In Boone County over the last 10 years there have been 151 economic development projects, 151 companies have expanded or located here," he said. "$3.6 billion in capital investment and over 16,000 jobs created. That's why this kind of economic growth and vitality needs infrastructure."

Construction is expected to begin in 2019 and conclude in 2021.

Pat LaFleur reports on transportation and mobility for WCPO. Connect with him on Twitter (@pat_laFleur) and on Facebook.

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