Very few functions of government are more critical than building roads and bridges. As the new vice chair of the Kentucky House Transportation Committee, improving Kentucky’s infrastructure, which faces critical challenges, is a top priority of mine.
Luckily, we will have a strong partner within the Trump Administration to work with us on rebuilding our infrastructure. Secretary Elaine Chao has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the President’s Transportation Secretary. Chao, the wife of our senior Senator, Mitch McConnell, is well-qualified and extremely capable choice to carry out the President’s bold infrastructure agenda.
Over her career, Secretary Chao has served in a variety of high-level posts. For the entirety of President George W. Bush’s presidency, she served as Secretary of Labor, where she was an effective advocate for the needs of workers across the country. She also had roles in the administration of the first President Bush, including Deputy Secretary of Transportation and Director of the Peace Corps.
The Secretary’s knowledge, experience, and qualifications for this position are unparalleled. She is a true American success story, as evident by her rise from a young immigrant from Taiwan to the position she now holds.
After being confirmed by an overwhelming margin by the Senate, Secretary Chao will work to rebuild much of America’s crumbling infrastructure. In the past, bills that should have provided effective investments in infrastructure, were instead bogged down by pork-barrel spending that did little to stimulate our economy. President Trump and Secretary Chao, on the other hand, are coming in with an attitude of getting the best deal possible. This is evident by the fact that approximately half of the spending on priority infrastructure projects will be picked up by private investors, according to documents from the Trump Administration.
This will be a huge benefit to taxpayers, who will get more bang for their buck while also benefiting from new roads and highways. Partnering the private sector with government can produce tangible benefits in a much more efficient manner.
Kentucky has already seen the benefits of having some of its own in high places. Thanks to the influence of our congressional delegation, and now the prominence of Secretary Chao, the much-needed designation of the remainder of the Edward T. Breathitt Pennyrile Parkway as an interstate spur could be well-positioned to be the next approved project. If designated as an interstate spur, the federal government and Kentucky could save nearly $200 million and maximize investments already made, like the $100 million invested in the road in the 1990s to achieve this ultimate goal.
I look forward to working with Secretary Chao to improve roads and bridges not only in major urban areas, but out here, where our citizens deserve nothing less than safe, stable avenues of travel. With the new leadership in Washington D.C., including President Trump, Kentucky’s rural communities will be looked out for in ways unforeseen over the past eight years. I feel confident that the new administration, including our new Secretary of Transportation, will make both Kentucky and America proud.
Walker Thomas is a Kentucky State Representative from District 8.