Biden Praises Bipartisanship and the Passing of Infrastructure Bill at ‘Dangerous’ Ohio River Bridge

Jeff Louderback
By Jeff Louderback
January 4, 2023Politics

Accompanied by a bipartisan contingent that included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), President Joe Biden touted “what can happen when Democrats and Republicans work together” during a Jan. 4 visit to northern Kentucky.

Standing on the southern bank of the Ohio River in Covington, with downtown Cincinnati and the Brent Spence Bridge in the background, Biden praised the passage of his $1 trillion infrastructure bill in late 2021 that is doling out money for bridges and roads, broadband networks, and water projects nationwide.

“We worked like hell to get the most significant infrastructure bill in our history of the United States, other than the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System,” Biden said.

President Joe Biden talks to audience members after delivering a speech near the Brent Spence Bridge in Covington, Ky., on Jan. 4, 2022. (Jeff Louderback/The Epoch Times)

The legislation includes more than $1.63 billion in federal grants to Ohio and Kentucky to improve the Brent Spence Bridge, which carries vehicles along Interstate 71 and Interstate 75 over the Ohio River, and construct a companion bridge to help alleviate traffic on the existing structure.

The total cost of the project is expected to run about $3.6 billion, with Ohio and Kentucky providing a mix of state and federal money to cover the rest of the cost.

“After years of politics being so divisive, there are bright spots across the country,” Biden said. “The Brent Spence Bridge is one of them.

“I believe it sends an important message to the entire country,” Biden said. “We can work together. We can get things done. We can move the nation forward if we just drop a little bit of our egos and focus on what is needed in the country.”

Biden and McConnell were joined by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), recently retired Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, and Democrat Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.

Each official talked about the importance of bi-partisan cooperation and praised legislators in both parties for setting aside their differences to improve one of the most important bridges in the United States.

Brown and Portman both shared stories about how the bridge had been a key discussion point for their decades in office.

Beshear said federal funding allowed the project to be completed without tolls.

DeWine, who once served in the senate with Biden and McConnell, said, “This project will not only ease the traffic nightmare that drivers have suffered through for years, but it will also help ensure that the movement of the supply chain doesn’t stall on this nationally significant corridor.

DeWine added that his administration, “vowed to press the federal government to fund this project, and we’re glad that they have recognized its significance.”

“The truth is this bridge cannot be built without these federal dollars,” DeWine said. “We’re rolling. We don’t have too many days to go until we really kick this thing off.”

For years, politicians have talked about fixing the aging structure. With the bridge in the background, President Barack Obama visited in 2011 and implored McConnell and then Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) to support a jobs package that would also upgrade the bridge.

President Donald Trump called the bridge “dangerous” and said, “we’re going to get it fixed.”

During a 2021 town hall meeting in Cincinnati—when he urged the passage of the infrastructure bill—Biden said, “We’re gonna fix that damn bridge of yours going into Kentucky.”

Biden’s presence in Covington marked a rare joint appearance with McConnell.

Biden called the Senate Minority Leader “a friend,” added that it was natural for McConnell to be there since he represents Kentucky, and said, “I asked permission if I could say something nice about him.”

Biden continued by reiterating the importance of finding “common ground” between the parties and applauding McConnell for his support in passing the infrastructure bill.

“It wouldn’t have happened without your hand. We have to find common ground to get major legislation done,” Biden said. “We don’t agree on a lot of things. Here’s what matters, he’s a man of his word.”

“We’ve been friends a long time,” Biden said. “Everybody is talking about how significant it is. It has nothing to do about our relationship. It’s a giant bridge, man. It’s a lot of money. It’s important.”

To the dismay of many in his party, McConnell was among the Republicans who voted for the infrastructure bill and said the Brent Spence Bridge project “will be one of the bill’s crowning accomplishments.”

“The infrastructure bill did not raise taxes. It did not revisit the 2017 tax bill,” McConnell said. “From a Kentucky point of view, it was extremely good for our state. I’m proud of my vote.”

NTD Photo
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters after meeting with Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Nov.15, 2022. Sen. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

On Capitol Hill earlier this week, McConnell told reporters, “This is a bridge that has been a major national issue for 25 years, my top transportation project for decades. And it’s going to be fully funded by the infrastructure bill, which I supported. It’s important for me to be there.”

Biden said that the bridge project and others like it boost manufacturing in the country with materials that are made in America.

The United States once had the No. 1 manufacturing sector in the world but is now ninth, Biden said, while China once ranked eighth but is now second.

“Where is it written that the United States can not and will not lead the world in manufacturing once again?” Biden asked. “We’re going to do it.

“It’s never been a good bet to bet against America,” Biden added. “I’ve never been more optimistic about America’s future. We just have to remember who in the hell we are.”

Biden’s announcement in northern Kentucky marks the first year of Large Bridge Project Grants from the infrastructure law’s Bridge Investment Program that total more than $100 million.

While Biden stood on the southern bank of the Ohio River, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Chicago, where grant funds will refurbish four moveable bridges crossing the Calumet River that carry marine traffic to and from the Illinois International Port.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg traveled to the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in New London, Connecticut.

Money will be directed to rebuild the northbound structure of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge which carries I-95 over the Thames River and serves as a connection on the I-95 corridor for motorists and freight between New York and New England.

White House infrastructure coordinator Mitch Landrieu will speak at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Grant funds will replace, retrofit and install critical structural elements to make the structure more resilient against earthquakes.

In a Jan. 3 statement, the White House released a statement detailing the importance of bridges in the United States.

“Bridges represent more than just their physical structures—they connect people and communities and make it easier to go about our daily lives,” a White House spokesperson said in a Jan. 3 statement.

“In addition to getting people where they need to go, bridges are critical to ensuring the nation’s commerce can flow freely, getting goods from ships to shelves quickly, reliably, and safely to their destinations.

“Modern bridges are critical for first responders to get to calls more quickly, more reliable shipments for businesses, and less expensive goods for families,” the statement continued.

“Approximately 43,000 bridges nationwide are currently rated in poor condition, which could include requiring weight restrictions and closures of bridges large and small.”

NTD Photo
Traffic on the Brent Spence Bridge passes in front of the Cincinnati skyline while crossing the Ohio River to and from Covington, Ky., on Oct. 7, 2014. (Al Behrman/AP Photo)

Opened in 1963 days after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the Brent Spence Bridge spans the Ohio River and connects Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.

Symbolizing the country’s crumbling infrastructure, the bridge was declared functionally obsolete by the Federal Highway Administration in the 1990s. It was designed for 80,000 vehicles a day but now surpasses 160,000 daily along its narrow lanes.

The new bridge will be constructed next to the current structure to handle traffic from Interstate 71 and Interstate 75. The existing bridge will be refurbished to carry local traffic.

The project is expected to break ground in late 2023 and is projected to be finished in 2029.

From The Epoch Times

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