Kaplan Daily’s official Obama scold, Glenn Kessler, has dropped yet another “four Pinocchios” on the President over bridges in my state of Kentucky.
“I sent them a jobs bill that would have put hundreds of thousands of construction workers back to work repairing our roads, our bridges, schools, transit systems, along with saving the jobs of cops and teachers and firefighters, creating a new tax cut for businesses. They said no. I went to the Speaker’s hometown, stood under a bridge that was crumbling. Everybody acknowledges it needs to be rebuilt. Maybe he doesn’t drive anymore. Maybe he doesn’t notice how messed up it was. They still said no. There are bridges between Kentucky and Ohio where some of the key Republican leadership come from, where folks are having to do detours an extra hour, hour-and-a-half drive every day on their commute because these bridges don’t work. They still said no.”
For this, Glenn throws the book at the President.
As we said before, we understand the need for symbolism. But that does not give a president license to stretch the facts.
Calling out the Republicans at the Brent Spence bridge was bad enough, given the bipartisan support for its reconstruction. But pointing to the Sherman Milton Bridge, which already has been repaired without funding from the president’s jobs bill, is ridiculous.
Perhaps the president was using outdated talking points, but that’s little excuse. Given that the president earned Three Pinocchios before, we have little choice but to up the ante this time.
Well, first of all the crack in the Sherman Minton in Louisville had been there since the beginning, and the repairs to fix it were far less extensive than originally thought. It was still a pain in the ass for four months out that way just as the president said. Meanwhile here in Cincy, construction season is currently adding about 30 minutes to my commute every afternoon. The problem is of course that the President is right about the Brent Spence. I live in northern Kentucky and I drive the Brent Spence every day to and from work in Cincy, it’s in dire need of replacement because it’s congested as hell and carries two interstates worth of traffic on just four lanes. And neither Kentucky Republicans nor Ohio Republicans want to pay for it.
The $2.4 billion Brent Spence Bridge replacement could receive final environmental approval from the Federal Highway Administration by the end of July, but what happens after that is anyone’s guess.
The project schedule calls for detailed design to begin in September, but neither Kentucky nor Ohio has enough funds to complete the phase – and it’s unclear whether they’ll get it this year.
Ohio needs $52.2 million and Kentucky needs $68 million to complete detailed design of the new bridge and the related overhaul of a 7.8-mile stretch of Interstate 75.
Normally that money would come from the federal government. And right now, that’s being held up by Orange Julius and his motley crew of miscreants. Meanwhile, every month the bridge project is delayed costs the Cincinnati area $8 million. So yes, the Sherman Minton is fixed, but the Brent Spence replacement is in limbo right now and may remain so for a very long time. Construction may not start until 2015 as Kessler complains about, but Kessler fails to note that the design phase does start this year, and at least some money (as detailed above) will be needed by the end of the year, and that money is being blocked by Republicans. And personally, as a Kentucky taxpayer, I want this damn thing replaced along with the awful 3-lane 71/75 approach to the bridge through Kentucky. The sooner, the better.
Construction could begin in early 2015 – but only if funding is secured.
Backers of the project increasingly believe that Congress will not allocate any construction funding until Ohio, Kentucky and the Greater Cincinnati region come up with a plan to pay for the local match of at least 20 percent that is required.
And Kentucky lawmakers may attach strings of their own: some lawmakers want to see a plan for how to pay for construction before any money is allocated after Dec. 31, 2013.
And that’s a big if. The Kentucky legislature is in special session hashing out the road bill this week, and Ohio is supposed to tackle the issue at some point. But it seems to me Kessler needs to get some of his own facts straight before dropping Pinocchios on folks.