Despite Obama Photo Op, No Bridge for Boehner, McConnell

Thursday, 22 Sep 2011 12:29 PM

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President Barack Obama is giving a speech to promote his jobs program Thursday, with the Brent Spence Bridge that spans Ohio and Kentucky as a backdrop. But the visit doesn’t mean much for the efforts of local officials to replace the overused structure, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

Indeed, the Enquirer’s headline on Obama’s address betrays cynicism on the project, which won't even qualify under the jobs proposal: “Obama visit won’t build bridge.”

What’s more, the Los Angeles Times reports, the Brent Spence Bridge itself doesn’t really need fixing, despite the president’s recent claim that the bridge "needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that's on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America."

The bridge, spanning the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Covington, Ky., “doesn't really need repairs. It's got decades of good life left in its steel spans. It's just overloaded. The bridge was built to handle 85,000 cars and trucks a day, which seemed like a lot back during construction in the Nixon era,” the Times’ Top of the Ticket political blog notes.

Plans aren’t to repair it, but to build another bridge nearby to ease the loads, according to the Times.

Even though the bridge is Obama’s stage to press his jobs package today, his jobs plan has little chance of passage except for isolated portions, and the bill contains no mention of the bridge, anyway.

The traditional route for the bridge to be rebuilt would be through the national transportation bill, but the current one expires in March 2012, when the presidential primaries get into full swing. So no bill is expected until at least 2013. And that bill could encompass spending decreases rather than increases.

While the president's jobs bill is intended for "immediate" highway spending to provide jobs, the new $2.3 billion bridge isn’t scheduled to start construction for four years, and wouldn’t be completed until 2022.

“Politicians hate these kinds of messy distractions when they pick a place to make a symbolic statement,” notes the Times’ Top of the Ticket. “But Brent Spence was so tempting linking, as it does, the home states of GOP House Speaker John Boehner [Ohio] and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [Kentucky].”

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