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'It sends an important message': Biden touts bipartisan efforts on Brent Spence Bridge project

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Posted at 2:59 PM, Jan 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-04 19:51:32-05

COVINGTON, Ky. — President Joe Biden visited Covington Wednesday to address newly granted funding that will allow improvements on the Brent Spence Bridge corridor to begin.

The project has finally received $1.635 billion in funding from the federal Infrastructure Law, signed by Biden on Nov. 15, 2021.

Also present were Governors Mike DeWine and Andy Beshear, alongside Senators Mitch McConnell, Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, each of whom took the podium to speak about the project ahead of Biden.

You can watch the speeches in full in the player below:

President Joe Biden visits Covington to talk about Brent Spence Bridge improvements

All five spoke of the bipartisanship efforts that went into both the Infrastructure Law and the fight for federal funds to fix the Brent Spence Bridge corridor.

"This amazing project show's what's possible when we do this as a team," said Beshear, who thanked McConnell, DeWine, Portman, Brown and Biden.

DeWine touted the City of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, recalling them as consistently championing the Brent Spence Bridge as the city's main priority for funding.

"Thank you...for your persistence and for knowing what was important, not only for Cincinnati but for the entire country," said DeWine.

He added that the Brent Spence Bridge project would add an additional 10 acres to the City of Cincinnati to be developed to tie local communities together.

Portman, who has worked toward a Brent Spence Bridge fix for nearly 30 years in Ohio politics, relayed his personal experiences driving "white-knuckled" and inches from an 18-wheeler across the bridge.

"Today is the triumph of common sense and persistence over pessimism and bipartisanship," said Portman.

Brown spoke about the impact the new bridge project will have on the nation's economy and the jobs it has the potential to bring to both Ohio and Kentucky, thanking DeWine, Beshear, Portman, McConnell and Biden.

"This is what bipartisanship should look like and does look like," he said.

McConnell thanked the others as well, adding the bridge project is a symbol of what is possible when Democrats and Republicans form a bridge between them.

"So, today we sit, on this wonderful, clear day, with the sun shining down on literally a legislative miracle," said McConnell.

Biden was formally introduced by Sarah May, a local iron worker and member of the Ironworkers Local 44 union.

He began his speech by echoing the sentiments of the others regarding bipartisanship, particularly thanking McConnell for his support of the Infrastructure Law and the bridge funding project.

"I wanted to start off the new year with this historic project here in Ohio and Kentucky with a bipartisan group of officials, because I believe it sends an important message," said Biden. "An important message to the entire country. We can work together, we can get things done, we can move the nation forward."

Biden called the Infrastructure Law the most significant investment made in U.S. infrastructure "since Eisenhower."

"For decades, people have talked about the Brent Spence Bridge," said Biden. "But folks, the talking is over."

He referenced the significance the Brent Spence Bridge has for the nation as a whole, carrying $2 billion in freight daily between Florida and Canada, while being responsible for roughly 3% of the nation's GDP each year.

In 2020, a fiery crash between to semi trucks left the bridge damaged and closed for weeks while repairs and safety evaluations were conducted. That closure left both local businesses and businesses relying on the I-71/I-75 artery facing lost revenue, while residents living in the area suffered with "nightmare commutes," said Biden.

The project, which will reshape lanes on the existing Brent Spence Bridge while building a companion bridge right next to it, has been estimated to cost a total of $3.6 billion.

While Biden's Infrastructure Law is providing nearly half that total, Beshear said Kentucky has amassed $250 million for the project and DeWine said Ohio's saved contributions could be close to $1 billion.

Biden also announced Wednesday the Infrastructure Law would provide $127 million in funds toward a much-needed reimagining of the Western Hills Viaduct. Local leaders have worked for years to gather funding toward a replacement bridge for the crumbling bridge that supports 55,000 vehicles daily.

Recent designs of the new bridge construction have shown the Brent Spence Bridge of the future will likely only carry local traffic across the river, while the to-be-built companion bridge will accommodate highway traffic from I-71/I-75.

Opened 59 years ago, the Brent Spence Bridge has officially needed a replacement since at least 1998, when the Federal Highway Administration determined it was no longer accommodating traffic needs. It is considered "functionally obsolete" and carries twice the amount of vehicles across the Ohio River each day that it was designed to accommodate.

Following the speech, Biden crossed the Ohio River and headed to Just Q'In Barbecue in Walnut Hills for lunch before returning to CVG to depart on Air Force One.

Upon his return to the White House, press reporters asked Biden if he had a message for the family of Damar Hamlin, who is in the intensive care unit at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Hamlin attempted to tackle Tee Higgins in the middle of the field during the first quarter of the Bills vs. Bengals game at Paycor Stadium. He stood up after the hit, but then immediately collapsed.

"I spoke to his mother and father at length," said Biden before walking away.

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