Republicans Criticize Obama Trip to Ohio Bridge Years From Being ‘Shovel-Ready’

Republicans Criticize Obama Trip to Ohio Bridge Years From Being  ‘Shovel-Ready’


Published September 22, 2011 |


Republicans criticized President  Obama ahead of his visit Thursday to a bridge in Cincinnati, saying the  project he’s using as a backdrop to the public push for a new jobs  bill is going forward with or without the stimulus package.

GOP lawmakers also noted the project is at least four years from being  shovel-ready and questioned why the president was holding his event on the Ohio  side since the bridge is owned by Kentucky.

“But I respect his decision in a presidential year to do it on the Cincinnati  side of the river considering the Ohio electoral votes,” Rep. Geoff Davis,  R-Ky., quipped.

Davis and other Republicans acknowledged the importance of the bridge for  people traveling between Ohio and Covington, Ky. But they said the stimulus bill  won’t necessarily help the project along in the near-term.

“The Brent Spence Bridge is technically not a shovel-ready project,” Davis  told Fox News.

The Republican  National Committee pointed to reporting from FOX 19 in Cincinnati noting that even if the  federal government contributes $1.9 billion, another $500 million from state and  local authorities would still be needed. The project so far has only $90 million  to its name.

With full funding,  requirements like environmental studies would still push ground-breaking off for  another four years.

“Obama’s stimulus rhetoric fails to span the gap to Realityville,” the RNC  said in a memo.

On the Senate floor Thursday morning, Senate Republican Leader Mitch  McConnell complained that the administration was trying to use controversial  stimulus proposals to fund infrastructure projects that should already be  funded.

“The president made the same promises when he was selling his first  stimulus,” McConnell said.

In a letter to Obama, Davis and Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, who represents the  other side of the bridge, thanked him for his interest but urged him to instead  throw his support behind a bill that would “stop the federal government from  imposing excessive regulations on cement manufacturers that threaten thousands  of American jobs.” They noted he would be near a concrete plant Thursday  afternoon.

The bill, which passed out of committee Wednesday, is headed for a floor vote  in the coming weeks. It would stop regulation that Republicans say will cost business  millions of dollars annually in compliance costs, and could lead to the  shut-down of as many as a dozen plants.

But environmentalists and others are opposed to the bill. Earth Justice said  in a statement that the bill would erode Clean Air Act protections against some  of the nation’s “worst polluters” by stripping restrictions on emissions from  cement companies. The group said the bill would encourage the companies “to burn tires,  plastics and other wastes without controlling or monitoring the resulting  pollution.”

Regarding the trip to the Ohio bridge, the White  House says Obama’s visit isn’t political, calling the bridge “functionally  obsolete.”

“It desperately needs rebuilding, as do substandard roads and bridges all  across America,” White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said. “As the two most  powerful Republicans in Washington, Speaker Boehner and Senator (Mitch)  McConnell can either kill this jobs bill or help the president pass it right  away.

“Instead of looking for every excuse to justify doing nothing about the  damaged infrastructure in their states, we believe it’s in their interest and  the country’s interest to act as soon as possible and put people back to  work.”

Obama and others argue that the  government has a responsibility to fix America’s crumbling bridges, pointing  to the country’s decaying infrastructure as a symptom of lagging competitiveness  globally. The group Americans United for Change referenced a report claiming the  president’s bill would ensure thousands of structurally deficient bridges would  be safe, in pushing Congress to pass the package.

McConnell said Wednesday Obama’s visit to the bridge isn’t fooling  anyone.

“President Obama may think the best way to distract people from the  challenges we face is to stand near a bridge in a swing state and pit one group  of Americans against another, and hope his critics look bad if they don’t go  along with him,” he said on the Senate floor. “But I don’t think he’s fooling  anybody.”

Chabot said that while he supporting funding for the bridge, the issue  shouldn’t be used to rally support for the president’s $450 billion stimulus  bill. “The first stimulus didn’t work and we don’t need another one,” he  said.

The bridge, built in 1963, has long been in the sights of federal officials  looking to renovate the stretch along Interstate 75, which the Federal Highway  Administration says is long overdue for renovation to accommodate massive growth  in the region over the years.

Analysis for the bridge repair began in earnest this year after initial  drawings were submitted in April 2010. This month the FHA was to begin taking  public comment. The FHA construction schedule lists its start time in 2015, with  an estimated completion date of 2022.

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