Biden returns to Pittsburgh to see new construction on bridge that collapsed earlier this year

The Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh became a symbol of the country’s troubled infrastructure, collapsing into a ravine earlier this year, hours before President Biden visited the city.

At the time, Mr. Biden detoured to survey the scene, where vehicles were stranded on shards of roadway and several people were injured, and pledged that help was on the way. On Thursday, the Democratic president returned to the bridge in hopes of turning it into a symbol of success for his administration. 

US President Joe Biden speaks about the rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure at the Fern Hallow Bridge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 20, 2022. – The bridge carrying Forbes Avenue through Frick Park, collapsed early on January 28, 2022, hours before Biden was due for a Pittsburgh visit.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Mr. Biden has become a frequent visitor to Pennsylvania, leading up to the midterms less than three weeks away. John Fetterman, the Democrat running for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, was on hand for the president’s visit. Fetterman, known for his casual attire, wore a suit for the occasion. 

President Joe Biden speaks with greeters, including US Democratic Senator from Pennsylvania Bob Casey (R), Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (2nd R) and Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. and Democratic senatorial candidate John Fetterman (3rd R), upon arrival at Pittsburgh International Airport in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 20, 2022 .

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

A new span is being built, and the bridge could be finished by December. 

“I’m coming back to walk over this sucker,” Mr. Biden said Thursday. “Although my staff said to me, ‘You realize how many times you’ve been to Pittsburgh?’ I said no. ‘Nineteen.'”

The White House is crediting the bipartisan infrastructure law championed by Mr. Biden for the accelerated timeline.

“It’s being done in record time. Normally, you’d be looking at two to five years to build a bridge like this,” Mr. Biden said, adding the cost is $25 million and “fully paid for” by the federal government. 

The legislation is one of the president’s most notable successes from the first two years of his term, and he repeatedly emphasizes its impact while traveling the country to roadways, airplane terminals and seaports. Out of roughly $1 trillion in spending, about $40 billion is dedicated to bridges.

The Biden administration has sought to increase the , hosting a summit last week at the White House to help state and local government officials streamline their processes.

The push to speed up the permitting, design and construction process has come as high inflation has been pushing up costs and causing delays. The Commerce Department has an initiative to coordinate the installation of water pipes and broadband and power lines to avoid tearing up roads multiple times. And the Transportation Department launched an internal center to advise on best practices for construction.

Biden, before boarding his helicopter on the White House South Lawn, challenged a reporter who suggested that few Democratic candidates have done events with him ahead of the midterm elections.

“That’s not true,” Biden responded. “There have been 15. Count, kid, count.”

After the bridge, Mr. Biden plans to stop in Philadelphia for a fundraiser with Fetterman, trying to replenish coffers that have been drained in one of the year’s most expensive races.

Fetterman is competing with Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Republican, for an open seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Toomey, also a Republican. If Fetterman wins, Democrats will have a much better shot at maintaining control of the Senate.

Mr. Biden was born in Pennsylvania, and the state remains central to his political identity.

His trip on Thursday will be his 14th to the state since taking office. A 15th trip has already been scheduled for next week, when he’s expected to return to Philadelphia for another political event.

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