A bridge in the region collapsed on Friday morning, just hours before President Joe Biden’s trip to Pittsburgh to emphasize the need for upgrades to the nation’s infrastructure. Biden used the occasion to showcase how his bipartisan infrastructure bill offers cash for sorely needed repairs.
Bidenwent to the fallen bridge in Pittsburg’s Frick’s Park before his planned afternoon comments at Carnegie Mellon University. According to local police, ten individuals were wounded in the collapse.
He said the fallen bridge was an example of one of thousands of bridges throughout Pennsylvania that needed to be repaired, bridges that may benefit from the billion dollar infrastructure plan, including $1.6 billion dollars for Pennsylvania to fix bridges.
“It had been rated in poor condition for the past 10 years,” Biden stated in prepared remarks. “What you all know, if you don’t you should know, there are another 3,300 bridges here in Pennsylvania, some of which are just as old, and just as decrepit — decrepit condition as that bridge was, including here in Pittsburgh, the city of bridges.”
“We’ve got to get it on with it,” Bidenadded. “We got to move. The next time, we don’t need headlines saying that someone was killed when the next bridge collapses.”
As soon as Biden arrived at the scene, he welcomed authorities and first responders on the site. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Penn. Gov. Tom Wolf walked up to the site with Biden after he had greeted first responders.
When asked by ABC News about his response, Biden said it was “incredible” and went on to discuss the need for infrastructure financing in cities like Pittsburgh.
“First of all, these guys deserve an incredible amount of credit here and that — by the way, when this was going on, they tell me the gas leak was,” Biden said, looking at an officer on the scene. “Explain what you said to me about the noise.”
“It was just a very loud — like a jet engine,” the officer said later, adding that a jogger stopped after the fall to assist police in getting people out of their vehicles.
“I’ll be damned,” Biden said.
“It’s a miracle, Mr. President. It’s a miracle,” the officer said.
While Biden’s domestic strategy has taken a back seat in recent weeks because of Russian border threats and important Supreme Court news, Biden’s presence refocuses attention on his success in getting the bipartisan infrastructure bill enacted.
The plan would deliver $1.63 billion in federal bridge money to Pennsylvania alone, including 327 million dollars this year, the third-highest total for any state. According to administration statistics, Pennsylvania has around 3,353 bridges in bad condition, ranking second only to Iowa. The bridge initiative will offer $27 billion in funding for projects around the nation.
“I’ve been coming to Pittsburgh a long time, and as a former Pennsylvanian, but I didn’t realize there are literally more bridges in Pittsburgh than any other city in the world. Did you know that? More than in Venice,” Biden remarked at the damaged bridge site.
“And we’re going to — you’re going to fix them all. Not a joke,” Biden said. “This is going to be a gigantic change. And there’s 43,000 nationwide. And we’re sending the money, and by the way, we’re gonna get you guys, more money too, the cops,” he added.
Biden’s native state of Pennsylvania has long served as a political emblem for him.
He launched his 2020 presidential campaign in Pittsburgh, and the Keystone State eventually clinched his victory. Last March, he also announced what became the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
While several high-profile Democratic candidates of Pennsylvania have hailed Biden’s infrastructure program, two told ABC News this week that, while they support Biden and his policy initiatives, they would not be attending Friday’s speech in Pittsburgh due to “schedule conflicts.”
A representative for Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s campaign, who is expected to be the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, told ABC News that the attorney general is “focused on the issues that matter to Pennsylvania families” but would not be in Pittsburgh on Friday.
“Like every American should, Josh wants our president to be successful and we’ll continue welcoming President Biden to his home state of Pennsylvania as he touts small businesses and jobs that have been saved by the bipartisan American Rescue Plan and the tens of thousands of Pennsylvania jobs that will be created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” the campaign spokesperson said.
Fetterman, a prominent contender in the Democratic Senate primary, told ABC News on Thursday that he planned to spend Friday in Harrisburg meeting with Democrats and discussing the 2022 midterm elections before joining Biden at the fallen bridge site. Although primary elections in Pennsylvania are still months away, the negative poll numbers hanging over the Biden administration may influence how Democrats interact with Biden on the campaign trail.