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Kamala Harris in Ohio: Infrastructure law will 'do a whole lot more' than fix roads, bridges

Vice President Kamala Harris to speak in Columbus about infrastructure
Posted at 3:16 PM, Nov 19, 2021

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about the importance of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act while in Ohio Friday.

Harris and Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh toured Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189 before speaking about how the new spending law will impact Ohioans.

The Vice President thanked Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown for their work on the bill. Specifically, Harris thanked Portman for his work as the Republican negotiator.

"I appreciate the work you did to make clear that certain things shouldn't be partisan, particularly when we're talking about supporting working men and women of America," Harris said.

Much has been said about the law's impact on the Brent Spence Bridge, but Harris said Ohio has "nearly 5,000 miles of highway that need to be repaired," specifically mentioning I-71 and I-75.

"You know how expensive it is to replace a flat tire? Insurance don’t cover that," Harris said.

Harris also talked about how the law will "put millions more Americans to work in good union jobs," and noted the legislation is part one of two with the Build Back Better Bill.

Here's a look at what the deal will mean for infrastructure in the Tri-State: Ohio will get more than $12 billion in funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, according to early White House estimates published by CNBC.com. Indiana would receive $8.84 billion, while Kentucky would get $6.94 billion.

“Optimism has now been replaced by realistic thought that we have to really get going so that the projects can get going,” Mark Policinski said.

Policinski is CEO of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana Regional Council of Governments. The group will be part of the team determining which projects apply for a piece of the funding.

“The rules and regulations that are attached to legislation are pretty much put together after the legislation passes. So, we're actually waiting for clarity on a lot of issues,” said Policinski.

First, Congress must tell states how to apply for the money.

“My hope is that we will be able to move quickly on this,” Portman said. “They’re in the process now setting it up. We had to wait until the bill was actually passed.”

Portman said the Tri-State area will get some funding immediately through programs that already exist, like the highway safety improvement program.

RELATED: Portman hopes infrastructure work encourages bipartisanship

Funding for multi-billion-dollar projects like the Brent Spence Bridge corridor will need federal approval, for which states will have to submit applications.

“The federal share in the past has been 20 percent of a project,” said Policinski. “Now, with this new bill, the federal share in some of the grants are 80 percent, even one is 90 percent. There’s optimism that if we get substantial federal participation, we could build the bridge without tolls.”

He said, in addition, the Western Hills Viaduct improvements make the list; the 100-year-old bridge carries roughly 55,000 vehicles a day.

Also, Policinski said he believes I-275 in Kentucky, where traffic backs up daily, will get attention since it's a major route for deliveries heading to and from the airport. CVG is the seventh largest port in the U.S.

“It’s growing by leaps and bounds. Amazon Prime and DHL have made billion-dollar investments there, and that’s going to continue to grow. So, we have to make sure the ability to get to and from CVG is intact,” said Policinski.

He also said the Route 32 corridor to Clermont County is a contender for funding, because it is heavily congested at times and booming with commerce.

He said he also expects the region to build out the electric vehicle charging station system.

RELATED: Infrastructure bill signed into law could impact Cincinnati beyond Brent Spence Bridge