Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao

WASHINGTON, D.C. — “Rural America isn’t looking for a handout. It’s just looking for its fair share.” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said Thursday.

A delegation with the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce is in Washington, D.C., this week on its annual visit to get federal support for local projects. Those projects include money for Paducah riverfront and riverport improvements. At the DOT on Thursday, local leaders emphasized their request for support.

The chamber delegation arrived to the department of transportation today with a big ask: Roughly $15 million for improvements to the Paducah riverfront and money for a container transfer yard at the riverport. It’s all wrapped together into what’s called a B.U.I.L.D. grant.

Chao surprised the group and welcomed the west Kentucky contingent. 

Later, one on one, she said the grant application process is competitive, and, she loves the entire Paducah riverfront area. “But there are real infrastructure needs as well, so, we’ve been very responsive,” Chao said. “We’ve given shipyard grants. We have additional small shipyard improvement grants that are coming along, and so we want to work with communities that are nestled right next to ports or have ports.”

But other cities are looking for the same funding support. That’s why it goes a long way to shake hands and meet face to face with the people making the decisions.

The DOT denied a similar request a year ago.

Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless said: “Today I heard the staff say 'We like when people listen. We think your community listened and responded very well to our feedback.”

A Trump appointee, Chao is pushing that the president wants communities like Paducah to benefit from federal support and money if it’s available.

“President Trump feels very strongly that we’ve got to pay attention to rural America,” she said.

Now, these local leaders wait to see if their request is approved.

The DOT could approve all of that build grant request or only a portion. The announcement is expected in November.