The following op-ed is written by Jennifer Kirchner, executive director of Kentuckians for Better Transportation.
The need to move goods safely and expeditiously across a reliable transportation network has never been greater. The nation’s first shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Louisville on Dec. 13 in what is being hailed a “historic moment” for the United States and Kentucky. UPS Worldport will handle vaccine distribution to the eastern U.S., and this shipment set off the biggest vaccination effort in American history.
From the deliveries of protective medical supplies this spring to the life-saving vaccines delivered earlier this month, Kentucky’s transportation infrastructure has been a vital part of helping our state and nation survive the COVID nightmare. In Northern Kentucky, the fiery crash that shut down the 56-year-old Brent Spence Bridge reminds us all that our transportation infrastructure is critical to our state’s livelihood.
Down the road, at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, more than 1.2 million tons of cargo move through the DHL Hub each year. In 2019, more than 80,000 packages per day traveled through the hub. In 2020, the number rose to 650,000 to 800,000 packages per day.
Air cargo is tremendously important to the success of the airport and regional economic development efforts. In the last year, air cargo operations increased from 59 percent of the facility’s service to 76 percent. UPS and DHL are not the only logistics companies making an impact on the state. Amazon will solidify its roots in northern Kentucky with a new Prime Air hub beginning operations in late 2021.
It’s always busy at these shipping facilities as the holiday season approaches. However, the rise in online shopping amid a global pandemic and increased demand for vaccine distribution place even more focus on the value these operations bring to our entire state.
With all eyes on Kentucky as a major player in the logistics and shipping industries, it is more important than ever that leaders take bold action and invest significantly in our transportation infrastructure network. Investing today not only allows Kentucky to maintain its multi-modal network that creates jobs and enhances the quality of life, but it also prepares our commonwealth for a brighter future.
A safe and reliable transportation network allows Kentucky to continue with the mass delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine and helps people put presents into the hands of loved ones we cannot visit in person this holiday season– bringing hope to an otherwise tumultuous year.
That is why increased infrastructure funding should be top of mind of all legislators throughout 2021. Increased transportation funding will help improve Kentucky’s air cargo networks, interstates, and transportation networks that are needed to fulfill these increased shipping and logistics needs.