The Sherman Minton Bridge, one of three major bridges spanning the Ohio River between Louisville, Kentucky and southern Indiana, was closed Friday after cracks were found in its structure. Roughly a quarter of America’s bridges, and more than a third of Kentucky’s, are considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, a problem highlighted by recent reports that the country needs an immediate $2 trillion investment just to bring its infrastructure up to date.
The bridge closure came just days after Sen. Mitch McConnell (R), whose Kentucky home is less than 13 miles from the bridge, derided President Obama’s jobs plan — largely based on infrastructure investment — as a “re-election plan.” McConnell doubled down on those claims Tuesday, saying the plan contained proposals both parties had “already rejected.” Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth (D), who represents Louisville, slammed McConnell’s lack of leadership last night, telling Rachel Maddow that McConnell should “come back to the district” and tell Louisvillians himself that America can’t afford to invest in its roads and bridges:
YARMUTH: What he needs to do is he needs come back to the district, he needs to stand there and talk to the people who are waiting in line and say, ‘You know, we don’t need to be investing in infrastructure, we can’t afford it right now. And ask them to make the sacrifice.’ He’s not willing to do that. Again, to portray what the president has said as just another political act defies reality. He’s staring in the face of something that is of enormous consequence to hundreds of thousands of his constituents. … This affects everybody. Mitch needs to take a leadership role in the Senate to help get this kind of investment adopted by Congress. If he doesn’t step forward, I don’t know how we can get it done. But he needs to. These are his people.
Despite claims that he supports investing in infrastructure, McConnell has continually opposed proposals to do just that. And while he chides Democrats for pushing a plan he claims won’t stimulate the economy, the closing of the Sherman Minton Bridge highlights the costs of not investing in such projects, as it is already extracting huge costs from state governments and private companies.
Industrial trucking companies have estimated the closure is costing them as much as $4,400 a day, while local companies have had to accommodate employees whose commute times have increased by more than an hour in some instances. Extra costs and potential drops in productivity will have an untold negative impact on the local economy. Kentucky and Indiana, meanwhile, may pay for repairs by diverting funds from other infrastructure projects, including a new Ohio River bridge.
Republicans, under the leadership of McConnell, have claimed that America simply can’t afford to pay for roads, bridges, and infrastructure. In reality, however, putting off such investments costs rather than saves money. America’s roads and bridges must be fixed. The only question is how long Republicans will put off such investments, and how costly the economic impact of their intransigence will become.
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