President's Brent Spence Bridge visit both practical and political

CINCINNATI - President Barack Obama visits Cincinnati Thursday to use the Brent Spence Bridge as a backdrop to urge Congress to pass the American Jobs Act.

The brief afternoon speech has both practical considerations and political overtones.

It will also mean traffic delays on roads leading to and from the double-decker span, which opened to traffic in 1963.

Practically speaking, the Brent Spence Bridge is considered functionally obsolete and carries more than double the amount of traffic it was designed to handle. More than 150,000 vehicles cross between Ohio and Kentucky each day.

Three possible designs for the new $2.4 billion project have been chosen and will be the subject of public hearings in February.

The President will claim speeding up such important infrastructure projects will put people back to work and help the sluggish American economy.

On the political front, Obama is speaking at Hilltop Basic Resources on West Water Street in downtown. He's trying to woo Ohio voters for the 2012 election and he's got to carry the Buckeye State if he wants a second term in The White House.

That fact wasn't lost Wednesday on Covington businessman Don Corken, Jr. of Corken Steel Products.

"You could say Obama doesn't give a wit about that bridge, but he needs Ohio," Corken said. "That's why he's here."

Earlier in the week, House Speaker John Boehner, a West Chester Republican, noted that the President will appear right between his 8th U.S. Congressional District and Kentucky, home to Senate Minority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell.

"You think these things happen by accident?" Boehner asked an audience at the University of Cincinnati. "Come on. We're glad he's coming. We're glad he's going to take a look at it."

However, Boehner wondered why such an important project hadn't already been funded.

"We spent $800 billion on the stimulus bill -- $800 billion," the Speaker said. "We could have taken some of that money and used it to actually do something like fixing the bridge."

"The idea that now we need more money we don't have strikes me as a stretch in this debate," Boehner added.

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory is one of the biggest boosters of the President's Cincinnati visit and the American Jobs Act.

In fact, he's already been to The White House six times in September and more visits are slated. He'll also greet Obama on Thursday afternoon at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

"The President understands how important the Brent Spence Bridge is and how many people could be put to work on that project," Mallory said during an afternoon news conference at the Super Jobs Center in Over-the-Rhine.

Asked whether the visit is purely political, the Mayor said Obama is the President of the United States and a politician who utilizes politics to get things done.

"The bottom line is he's got to use whatever political power and political persuasion he has just as I am to get Congress to act in order to put people to work," he stated. "If you want to call the effort to put people back in employment political, it's absolutely political."

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, said he's glad the President is coming to Southwestern Ohio.

"If he can come in and give us a big chunk of money, that would be great to help us get that bridge going faster and help us pay for it," the Governor said.

About 2,000 free tickets for the President's speech were quickly handed out Wednesday at Paul Brown Stadium.

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