Thursday, September 22, 2011

Barry's bridge to nowhere

Pure politics.

That is, the trip to Cincinnati's Brent Spence Bridge that Obama is using as the backdrop to his new stimulus...err, I mean, jobs bill. I'm certain it's just coincidence that this bridge, which links Ohio and Kentucky, lies in House Speaker John Boehner's district...shear coincidence, as well as the fact that he chose to give his speech on the Ohio side when Kentucky owns the bridge (btw, Kentucky is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's home state). But the fact is the project is moving forward with or without Obama's latest stimulus, or without the first stimulus for that matter. As Andrew Stiles reminds us:

The term “shovel-ready” comes to mind. However, there is nothing “shovel-ready” about the Brent Spence Bridge. Analysis on the project began only recently, and the Federal Highway Administration has yet to open the issue to public comment. Even if all the necessary funding were in place (which it’s not), the FHWA estimates, the earliest possible start date for construction on the project would be 2015, with a completion date in 2022.

Part of the reason is that various noise and environmental studies are still being conducted to ensure that the project is in compliance with state and federal regulations. According to a 2004 agreement between Ohio and Kentucky, the “environmental phase” of the Brent Spence Bridge project was estimated to cost $18 million.

I think the bold text in the second paragraph speaks for itself as to the ridiculous cost of regulatory studies. But, as Stiles says in an accompanying post, concerning the 'shovel-readiness' of this job, "don’t expect Obama to mention any of that in his speech today."

Perhaps even more peculiar, as the Los Angeles Times reports, "It 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...So, plans are not to repair or replace the Brent Spence Bridge, but to build another bridge nearby to ease the loads.

But the bright side of this is that the people of Ohio aren't buying this photo op either, as The Cincinnati Enquirer concludes:

The bill itself contains no mention of the Brent Spence bridge, or any other specific projects. Even if the bill is passed, it’s not clear funding included in the bill for stimulus or the creation of a national infrastructure bank would ever reach the bridge.

That’s because if the point of the jobs bill is to create jobs now, then the Brent Spence Bridge may make a nice backdrop for a speech, but it’s not the best example of a shovel-ready project.

If this bridge is in such need of repair, as the President touts, then why overlook it throughout any of the past three summers of recovery? It obviously wasn't as important as Solyndra or LightSquared.  Yet another example of Obama's facade of concern for jobs and the average working man (notice I didn't append 'union' to that sentence).

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