Ed. Note: Cross-posted from Fast Lane, the blog of the Secretary of Transportation.
Two weeks ago, President Obama presented his American Jobs Act to a joint session of Congress and to the people of America. Today, I was pleased to join him at the Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River, a functionally obsolete crossing on one of North America's busiest trucking routes. Replacing this bridge is exactly the kind of project that the American Jobs Act could support.
And the Brent Spence Bridge from Cincinnati, Ohio to Covington, Kentucky is just one example. As the President said, "The same is true in cities and towns all across America. It’s not safe. It lengthens the commute to work. It costs our businesses billions when they can’t ship parts or products as quickly as possible."
We were joined beside the bridge by ironworkers, laborers, and carpenters from the area, some of whom have been out of work for months on end. They would be happy to get back on the job rebuilding the Brent Spence or any of the tens of thousands of bridges in America that need repair, replacement, or modernization. If only Congress would pass the American Jobs Act.
Carpenter Ronnie King--who has been mostly unemployed since 2007--told us today, "Roads and bridges desperately need work, and there are a lot of people out there who desperately need work."
Well, as soon as Congress passes the American Jobs Act, we can get people like Ronnie back to work. But we need Congress to act soon, and it's not clear that they will. As laborer Johnnie Jacobs, who was also with us today, said, "This is supposed to be the land of plenty, but people are too busy bickering to help the people who are really suffering here.”
I hope that's not the case.
Built in 1963 to handle up to 85,000 vehicles a day, the Brent Spence Bridge now carries nearly twice that number of vehicles each day. Commuters regularly face backups of nearly three miles on both sides of the bridge.
These backups also affect all of us because the bridge is on I-75, a primary highway for America's truckers. Three percent of the nation's gross domestic product crosses the Brent Spence Bridge each year. Shipping companies try to have their trucks avoid the bridge, but that only ends up costing them--and the rest of us--more money.
If Congress passes the American Jobs Act, we can speed up the environmental and other approvals necessary and get shovels in the ground for the Brent Spence Bridge by 2013--that's more than a full year ahead of schedule.
And there are tens of thousands of other bridges like this across America waiting for immediate attention. Just down the river from Cincinnati is the Sherman Minton Bridge, where I'll visit tomorrow. Two weeks ago, this bridge that carries 75,000 vehicles a day on I-64 had to be shut down indefinitely by the governors of Indiana and Kentucky because it's no longer safe.
When can we begin replacing the Sherman Minton Bridge? When can we begin modernizing the Brent Spence Bridge? When can we begin to put America's construction workers back on job sites rebuilding roads, rails, and runways across the country?
As soon as Congress passes the American Jobs Act.
Ray LaHood is Secretary of Transportation.