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September 22, 2011

Shovel Ready, Part II: Obama Tells Ohio and Kentucky He's Got a Bridge To Sell Them

A new bridge is usually the sort of thing I support. The government ought to be doing this sort of thing.

But does a proposed Ohio-Kentucky bridge have anything to do with jobs "right now"?

In his address to Congress earlier this month, President Obama singled out the bridge as example of one that “needs repair.” White House press secretary Jay Carney echoed this line last week. “It’s pretty clear that this bridge could benefit from a little repair and renovation,” he told reporters. But local authorities are already on the case. They have been working for nearly a decade on a plan to replace the bridge with an entirely new structure, part of a broader initiative to alleviate vehicle congestion in the area.

Pfeiffer told the Enquirer that passing the president’s jobs bill would put unemployed construction workers to work right away on infrastructure projects across Ohio and Kentucky. 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.


President Obama himself admitted that one of the flaws of the stimulus package was the fact that “shovel-ready wasn’t as shovel-ready as we expected.” And yet here he is touting efforts like the Brent Spence Bridge replacement as an example of an infrastructure project that could “put people to work right now” and get the economy growing again. Can Obama really blame members of Congress, including a number of Democrats, for being a bit skeptical this time around?

I'm not sure if Obama has in mind the replacement bridge, because he speaks of repairing the old one. Maybe this is his way to cover and fuzz the claim up.

But even a bridge repair is not shovel-ready. In fact, I can't think of a less shovel-ready thing than a bridge repair, which will require months of planning. Fixing a bridge which is currently in use would require a lot of traffic planning, wouldn't it? And engineering plans, and so on.

These are all mid-range projects, somewhere between two to four years away. It is simply a demagogic lie, and an absurd one, given that he's told it before and has now eaten crow, to insist that major civil engineering projects requiring at least a year of surveying and planning are ready to produce jobs "right now."

By his own ever-optimistic projections, we'll be out of this rough patch of economy by then, anyway. (Riiiight?) So the stimulus aspect is missing, once again.

Incidentally, if he were at all serious about fixing this bridge, he could have, erm, included it in the first "stimulus" package. (In fact, $0 was devoted to the bridge last time 'round.)

If he had, then the engineering and planning work would have been done by now, and, in fact, men would be ready to start welding on the project.

But he didn't. He just assumed that this would be a normal recession, fairly brief, and that the natural business cycle rebound would ride to his rescue in short order, and then he could take credit.

So he didn't bother planning for a three year recession. Even though he's Professor Science and everything.

But this time -- O!, this time. This time it's shovel ready.

Fired up, ready to go.

More: He was, in fact, just fuzzing up what he's talking about.

The current bridge does not need repairs -- it needs another bridge nearby to handle traffic congestion.

So, apparently Obama was talking about a new bridge, which he's willing to sell you, sometime around 2015, assuming everything goes according to plan.

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posted by Ace at 02:34 PM

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