UPDATE: I thought you might want to see this piece I wrote last week in case you missed it, since it pertains to today’s trip. Originally published last Friday.
President Obama next week will make a publicity pitch for his American Jobs Act at a site where work is not scheduled to begin until 2014 at the earliest.
Obama plans an appearance at the site of the Brent-Spence Bridge, which connects Cincinnati to Covington, Kentucky. The bridge is too small for the number of cars and trucks that need to cross it each day and must be replaced. But the project is still in the planning stages and cannot possibly fulfill the American Jobs Act’s intent of creating new work as fast as possible.
Failure to fund shovel-ready projects is one of the chief criticisms of Obama’s $826 billion 2009 stimulus measure.
But the political effect of Obama’s planned appearance is much more clear, humiliating both Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) by highlighting an urgent infrastructure project that is in McConnell’s state and very close to Boehner’s district.
Obama has been accused of using the Jobs Act – which is paid for by tax increases the White House knows Republicans will never accept – as more of a political tool than a jobs program.
According to a report Thursday in the Cincinnati Enquirer, officials have not even selected a design for the new bridge.
Preliminary engineering and design are nearly finished, a lead planner said Tuesday, and public hearings are set for February.
At the hearings, officials will present two proposals to revamp a 7.8-mile stretch of the Interstate 75 corridor and three proposed designs for a new double-decker bridge over the Ohio River.
A website devoted to the project states that construction will begin in either 2014 or 2015.
And yet Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney clearly linked Obama’s appearance at the bridge to the Jobs Act.
On Thursday, September 22nd, the President will travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, to deliver remarks at the Brent-Spence Bridge, urging Congress to pass the American Jobs Act now, so that we can make much-needed investments in infrastructure projects across the country and put more Americans back to work. The Brent-Spence Bridge is on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America, yet it is considered “functionally obsolete” because it is in need of so many significant repairs. If Congress passes the American Jobs Act, we can put more Americans back to work, while getting repairs like this one done.
But the bridge project won’t put anyone back to work for at least two years, and probably more given the usual delays associated with such endeavors.
Carney’s contention that Brent-Spence Bridge is “functionally obsolete” because it needs “so many significant repairs” is also inaccurate. Actually, the bridge is structurally sound but is classified as “functionally obsolete” by the National Bridge Inventory because it does not have enough lanes for the traffic it must bear and has no space for emergency shoulders.
Carney denied Thursday that Obama was traveling to the site for political purposes.
A big shout out to a few astute commenters on a previous article who alerted me that the bridge isn’t ready for prime time.