NKY BridgeThe American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently gave American Infrastructure an overall grade of D+ after reviewing the state of American roads, bridges, shipping, and water infrastructure. The report also gives a breakdown of challenges for each state. One challenge highlighted in Kentucky is the need for a combined investment of $12.44 billion in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure over the next 20 years. Some of the need infrastructure upgrades are already underway in Lexington where the city is investing $600 million in upgrades to the sanitary sewer. The city of Louisville is also implementing similar sanitary sewer upgrades to the tune of $850 million.

The ASCE also estimates that 8.1% of all bridges in Kentucky are structurally deficient and 8% of roads are in poor condition. Compared to national statistics, Kentucky is slightly better than the national average which shows that 9.1% of bridges nationally are structurally deficient and 20% of highways nationally are in poor condition. While it’s nice to be better than the national average in some things, sustained investment in roads and bridges will be required to keep the manufactured goods so vital to Kentucky economies moving efficiently to markets. Thankfully, it appears local officials in Central Kentucky are aware of many of these infrastructure needs based on a previously commissioned status report of regional infrastructure. Since this BEAM report was published, some of the infrastructure projects like the downtown and east end bridge projects in Louisville have made significant progress. Additionally, state efforts to streamline existing regulations may help speed up the deployment of some of these infrastructure investments.

One particularly appealing infrastructure regulatory approach is the “dig once” proposal which would incorporate telecommunications conduit into road construction projects to quickly improve broadband access. While the specifics of how this would be implemented on a federal, state and local level are up for discussion, it has the potential to leverage road infrastructure investment and move Kentucky toward a greater adoption of high speed internet. And to someone like me who works with telecommunications providers who jump through numerous regulatory hoops every time they upgrade their network; one touch solutions just make sense.

Josiah Frey is an Environmental Scientist at Smith Management Group. Josiah can be reached at josiahf@smithmanage.com