Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Finalization of Federal Grant for Space Coast Improvements
Merritt Island, FL (STL.News) Governor Ron DeSantis announced the final signing of Florida’s $90 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Grant. This announcement was applauded by Lt. Governor Jeanette Nunez, Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello, NASA, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Kevin J. Thibault, P.E. as well as space industry partners at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. This grant agreement will be used to enhance the connectivity and mobility of Florida’s Space Coast.
“We are preparing for future growth, facilitating local commerce, and ensuring economic vitality for Florida’s booming Space Coast all while encouraging space freight mobility,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “As part of these efforts, this grant solidifies the final funding needed to replace the Indian River Bridge, which will benefit commercial space transportation and the residents and visitors of the Space Coast.”
The state of Florida, led by Space Florida and supported by FDOT, was named an INFRA Grant award recipient by the U.S. Department of Transportation in a partnership with NASA and FHWA for both the Indian River Bridge Replacement and roadway improvements to Space Commerce Way.
The $126 million bridge project includes new high-level fixed bridges that replace the current twin draw bridges built in 1964. Bridge enhancements will provide critical support for large vehicles that are necessary for future space launches. The new bridges will also serve as a public access route between the mainland near Titusville and North Merritt Island as well as a hurricane evacuation route for residents of the barrier islands in the area.
“I am incredibly proud of the partnership between the state of Florida and the federal government on this important project,” said Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nunez. “These critical infrastructure improvements will ensure that Florida continues to be the world’s premier gateway into space.”
“Space Florida applauds Governor DeSantis for his leadership in Florida’s next milestone in its Infrastructure for Rebuilding America Grant project,” said Frank DiBello, Space Florida President and CEO. “There will be more challenges ahead in the future commercialization of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, and this Governor is providing the commitment and leadership to realize that vision. Getting this bridge fixed now is critical to growing the industry and launch cadence here in Florida and will modernize the Cape Canaveral Spaceport infrastructure so Florida can remain a global leader in space commerce and exploration.”
When asked to comment on the Indian River Bridge project, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana said, “We have a great partnership with the State of Florida that allowed us to leverage State and NASA funds to obtain the Federal grant that is covering the majority cost of replacing this critical piece of infrastructure supporting our Nation’s premiere multi-user spaceport. I couldn’t be more pleased.
“The FHWA applauds Florida for using these federal funds to make sure the Sunshine State has the 21st-century infrastructure it needs to pave a trail of prosperity into space,” said FHWA’s Florida Division Administrator James Christian.
“This project provides much-needed mobility enhancements for the more than 12,000 drivers who depend on the causeway between Titusville and Merritt Island each day,” said FDOT Secretary Kevin J. Thibault, P.E. “The infrastructure of the Space Coast has been witness to some of mankind’s greatest achievements, and these improvements will support future launches and space exploration.”
Also included in the grant funding is widening approximately 2.7 miles of Space Commerce Way to four lanes. Improvements along this corridor offer enhanced access for the public and commercial traffic, which helps to ensure critical commerce through the area, benefiting all businesses including those in the space industry. Roadway improvements on this corridor total an additional $24 million.
Construction of the new bridges is anticipated to begin in late 2021 and estimated to be complete in 2025. Construction of the improvements to Space Commerce Way is expected to be begin in late 2022 and estimated to be complete late 2024.