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Vice president touts bridge funding in Chicago: ‘We will finally fix this problem’

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks about the Biden administration’s infrastructure investments on a visit Wednesday to Crowley’s Boat Yard, across from the 95th Street Bridge on the Southeast Side.

CHICAGO – With a very literal backdrop of the 95th Street Bridge on the Southeast Side, Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday came to Chicago to tout the effects of the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure law, which includes a $144 million grant to rehab four bridges along the Calumet River.

Harris’ visit to Illinois — her sixth since taking office — came as President Joe Biden visited the Brent Spence Bridge in Kentucky and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg traveled to Connecticut to visit the Gold Star Bridge, all part of a united effort to highlight how the administration is growing the economy and making an impact on communities throughout the country.

It was also an effort to highlight bipartisanship in a newly divided Congress, as Biden thanked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for his role in passing the massive infrastructure plan.

“After two years in office, I can say with confidence, we are building that better future,” Harris said in Chicago. “We are building an economy, as President Biden often puts it, from the bottom up and the middle out. And I’ll add from the outside in.”

Kamala Harris
Vice President Kamala Harris discusses the Biden-Harris Administration’s economic plan to rebuild infrastructure during a speech at Crowley’s Boat Yard, across from the 95th Street Bridge over the Calumet River, on the Far South Side, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-Times

The grant of $144 million through the bipartisan infrastructure law will rehabilitate the 92nd Street, 95th Street, 100th Street and 106th Street bridges along the Calumet River.

Harris said the 95th Street Bridge, built in 1958, hasn’t had major repairs in decades — causing detours and delays, raising delivery costs and disrupting supply chains, all of which trickle down to families, small businesses and workers.

“The consequences of infrastructure underinvestment have been a familiar story in cities and states across our nation,” Harris said. “About 43,000 bridges, almost 1 in 10, show signs of severe distress in our country. And you know, for years people talked about this problem, but now I am proud to say, we will finally fix this problem.”

The funds are part of more than $2 billion in investments from the bipartisan infrastructure law that will be used to upgrade economically significant bridges across the country, the White House said.

The bipartisan infrastructure law invested $40 billion to repair and rebuild the country’s bridges, which the White House touts as the single largest dedicated investment in bridges since the construction of the Eisenhower-era interstate highway system.

“Rehabilitating these bridges will undoubtedly reap massive, local, regional and national benefits, as well as reinforce our city’s many competitive advantages, including our centrality, proximity to critical resources like fresh water, and of course, an unmatched talent pool,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at the event. “And did I mention? This means, jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle also attended the event.

The vice president also snuck in a couple of minutes to visit the nearby Calumet Fisheries, a well-known and beloved smoked seafood stop along the river. She picked up two bags of food, including smoked salmon and trout, and told a Calumet Fisheries employee that trout was her husband’s favorite.

Harris has been a frequent visitor to Illinois since taking office. She last stopped in Chicago for a get-out-the-vote rally Nov. 6.

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