The U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday announced that it awarded a $90 million grant to help pay for replacement of the aging Indian River Bridge along State Road 405, a road that leads to Kennedy Space Center and the KSC Visitor Complex.
Officials say the project — and the accompanying DOT grant that was sought by Space Florida — are necessary for the expanding space industry to continue to access KSC.
The existing Indian River Bridge is near the end of its service life, and soon will not be able to carry space-bound or returning freight, according to U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge.
“If we want to continue to conduct launches, grow our space industry and support our local economy, we will need to replace the Indian River Bridge, which is critical infrastructure to our space capability,” Posey said in a statement released Thursday evening.
Last year, Posey worked with the Florida congressional delegation to pass legislation authorizing construction of a new bridge.
On Thursday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced that her agency had accepted Space Florida’s application for funding to construct a new bridge.
Posey said he supported Space Florida’s bid for the grant, and worked with the state’s space agency to help navigate the process.
Chao said Space Florida will be awarded $90 million to go toward replacing the Cape Canaveral Spaceport Indian River Bridge with new twin high-level bridges, to allow transportation of oversized vehicles to launch sites.
The project also includes widening about 2.7 miles of Space Commerce Way and rehabilitating about 3.7 miles of NASA Parkway West.
Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello said getting the grant “took a lot of teamwork, and it demonstrates the U.S. Department of Transportation’s confidence in the state to execute. We are excited for the opportunity to showcase Space Florida’s capabilities of meeting the needs of the commercial sector. We can now look forward to a new more robust transportation infrastructure to support Florida’s dominant position in the commercial space marketplace.”
The grant was one of the largest of 20 grants totaling $855.95 million that were announced Thursday through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America discretionary grant program, also known as INFRA.
“This significant federal investment will improve major highways, bridges, ports and railroads around the country to better connect our communities, and to enhance safety and economic growth,” Chao said in a statement.
It was among 10 large project grants of at least $25 million and 10 small project grants of $5 million to $25 million that Chao announced Thursday.
Chao said INFRA grants support the Trump administration’s “commitment to fixing our nation’s infrastructure by creating opportunities for all levels of government and the private sector to fund infrastructure, using innovative approaches to improve the processes for building significant projects, and increasing accountability for the projects that are built. In addition to providing direct federal funding, the INFRA discretionary grant program aims to increase the total investment by state, local and private partners.”
A fact sheet on the project said it “supports economic vitality by widening Space Commerce Way, which will allow transportation of oversized vehicles to launch sites and provide access to daily visitors accessing the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The project supports innovation by deploying fiber-optic cable, dynamic messaging, closed-circuit television cameras, microwave vehicle detection, Bluetooth travel time sensor, bridge security systems and load monitoring systems.
The local bridge project was one of two Florida projects awarded INFRA funding on Thursday. The other was $8.04 million for PortMiami to rehabilitate and create new capacity on its Seaboard Marine Terminal.
In commenting on the two grants, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a statement that “as Florida’s population continues to increase, we must work to ensure that our transportation infrastructure remains robust and up to date for our citizens and visitors. Our ports and spaceports are essential to our future economic success. This federal investment will further strengthen PortMiami, Cape Canaveral and our space industry, as well as our transportation infrastructure system as a whole.”
Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault thanked the U.S. Department of Transportation “for awarding nearly $100 million for two major projects that will greatly impact our infrastructure in Florida. These projects are critical to supporting growth, both within PortMiami and Cape Canaveral, and will further solidify Florida’s position as one the best transportation systems in the country.”