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Portman Talks Brent Spence Bridge, Climate Change In Cincinnati

Senator Rob Portman speaks with OKI Board President David Painter in Batavia after discussing a $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
Jolene Almendarez
Senator Rob Portman speaks with OKI Board President David Painter in Batavia after discussing a $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

A $1 trillion infrastructure bill was co-authored by Senator Rob Portman and passed by the Senate in August.

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) discussed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill Friday, reminding people at a luncheon in Batavia that the bill will result in billions of dollars for Ohio roads, bridges and investments. But it first has to make it through Congress later this month.

"Eighty-seven percent of the American people want Congress, in a bipartisan way, to make a major investment in roads and bridges because they live it every day," Portman said. "So it's popular. The economists will tell you, if you make an investment in infrastructure, what you're doing is making the economy more efficient, therefore more productive."

Portman helped negotiate the bipartisan bill, which passed through the Senate in August. It's especially important to the region because of likely funding for major repairs to the Brent Spence Bridge.

Portman noted how 3% of the country's GDP — about $642 billion — goes across the Brent Spence Bridge every year, meaning the bridge sees about twice as much traffic then it was originally designed for.

"The fact that this is the Bridge Investment Act that I co-authored with a Democrat might be one reason it looks a lot like something that would go to a place like Brent Spence. Because it is directed toward regionally significant bridges that are carrying more traffic than they were designed for and that are in need of serious investment. That's us," he said, adding other bridges would also qualify for funding through the act.

He says federal money for the bridge — which has been promised and not delivered by every modern day president — would make a dent in bridge repair costs, but it wouldn't cover the cost of all the repairs needed.

"We're also going to have to continue to work constructively at the state and local level to cover the remaining match," he said.

In addition to the Brent Spence Bridge, Portman said the infrastructure bill covers other needs, like broadband internet, aging water infrastructure like lead pipes, trails and climate change.

"Another aspect of legislation I want to highlight addresses concern that we are all being increasingly made aware of, and that is the threat of extreme weather events to communities across our region and the nation at large," he said.

Extreme weather events, caused by climate change, are often a partisan issue. But Portman said mitigating the effects of extreme drought and flooding is beneficial for everyone, regardless of whether people can agree on what causes it to happen.

"So it is important to respond to events in this legislation. Again, it's not about the Green New Deal and about those kinds of issues," he said, referencing legislation made popular by Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive lawmakers. "It's about responding to it, having the resiliency to push back, because they're (extreme weather events) here."

The Henry M. Mann Award

In addition to discussing the infrastructure bill, Portman was also awarded the Henry M. Mann Award during the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments annual luncheon.

"The award is not an annual award. It's bestowed only to individuals whose special service to the entire OKI our region covers, not just a year but a lifetime," said OKI Board President David Painter.

City council member David Mann, who is running for mayor, and his sister Patricia Smitson presented the award, which was named after their father.

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.