WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama called the Brent Spence Bridge "a rotten bridge" and called out local Republican leaders John Boehner and Mitch McConnell in a news conference Friday, hours before sequester cuts were scheduled to kick in.
Obama was talking about the need to create jobs and not just cut deficits – and the need to reach a budget deal with Republicans – when he repeated a call he made in a speech at the aged Ohio River span in 2011:
"I think Washington generally spends all its time together about deficits and doesn't spend a lot of time talking about how do we create jobs. So I want to make sure that we're talking about both.
"I think that, for example, we could put a lot of people back to work right now rebuilding our roads and bridges. And this is deferred maintenance. We know we're going to have to do it. And I went to a bridge that connects Mitch McConnell's state to John Boehner's state, and it was a rotten bridge and everybody knows it. And I'll bet they really want to see that improved. Well, how do we do it? Let's have a conversation about it. That will create jobs. It will be good for businesses, reduce commuter times, improve commuter safety. That has to be part of this conversation, not just this constant argument about cutting and spending."
Obama came to the Cincinnati riverfront on Sept. 22, 2011, and urged Congress - and House Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell in particular - to pass the American Jobs Act. At the time, he said the bill would speed up important infrastructure projects like the Brent Spence, put people back to work and help the sluggish economy.
One month later, Republicans blocked the bill in the Senate.
The Brent Spence Bridge, which opened in 1963, carries more than 172,000 vehicles a day - more than twice the volume it was built to handle - and is classified as "functionally obsolete." Plans for replacing the bridge have been underway for at least a decade, but financing the $2.7 billion project has been a major obstacle.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear say tolls will be needed to supplement federal money Financial consultants for the project have determined a bridge toll will not exceed $2 per trip.
See Dan Monk's WCPO Digital report about funding the new bridge at: http://www.wcpo.com/dpp/news/local_news/toll-on-brent-spence-bridge-not-to-exceed-2
A recent I-team report, "How safe are Tri-State bridges?" by 9 On Your Side's Brendan Keefe, revealed the dangers in other area bridges. See that report at http://www.wcpo.com/dpp/news/local_news/investigations/i-team-tragedy-and-hardship-combine-to-create-safer-bridges