PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Just hours after a bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh on Friday morning, President Joe Biden gave a speech in the city stressing the need to improve the nation’s infrastructure.
The event and its subject matter were scheduled before the Fern Hollow Bridge collapse near Frick Park injured at least four people.
Biden visited the site of the collapse before his speech, addressing emergency personnel and making brief remarks.
“It had been rated in poor condition for the past 10 years,” Biden said of the bridge during his speech. “What you all know – or if you don’t know, you should know – there are 3,300 other bridges here in Pennsylvania, some of which are just as old and just as dilapidated as this bridge, including here in Pittsburgh , the ‘City of Bridges.’ ”
Biden delivered his speech at Carnegie Mellon University’s Mill 19, a collaborative innovation space for artificial intelligence, automation and robotics, located on the site of a former steel mill.
In that context, he said Pittsburgh was “transforming” from “being told you’re a city with no future to becoming a city of the future.”
“You’re going to rule the world again,” Biden said. “It’s not hyperbole. It is a fact. Where, instead of closing factories along the Allegheny River, we’re now going to talk not about steel, but about ‘Robotics Row’, a three-mile run of some of the world’s most innovative companies – a place where the future is being written, where families can have good salaries, good houses, a future with a little respite.
Biden also provided details on a recently passed $1 trillion infrastructure plan that includes money for bridge repairs, as well as other components including broadband, airports, trains and electric cars. He said the plan is “already making tangible differences” by “investing in our future in every city and town in this country”.
“Pittsburgh also knows the consequences when we ignore the backbone and don’t invest in ourselves, don’t invest in our people,” Biden said. “Some of you have been around long enough to remember how this town lost 100,000 steel jobs between 1970 and 1990. … You or our parents remember what it was like to live in your neighborhood. I did not feel well. The painful ripple effect it had, the jobs lost, the families torn apart. So you know that to build a truly strong economy, we need a made in America future.
“It means using products, parts, materials that are made right here in the United States of America. It means bringing manufacturing, jobs, building supply chains back here to us, not outsourcing them overseas. , so that we have better jobs and lower prices here. That means betting on American workers.
“Let’s meet the challenges head on,” Biden said. “Let’s keep building a better America because it’s totally, completely in our power. I promise you. I promise you. It’s time we stopped fighting, and it’s time we started working together again.
The president was joined by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, U.S. Senator Bob Casey Jr., Governor Tom Wolf, Lt. Governor John Fetterman, U.S. Representative Conor Lamb, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and the Director of the Allegheny County Rich Fitzgerald, all fellow Democrats.
“Being in a community like Southwestern Pennsylvania, you can point to a lot of things that are going in the right direction with how Pittsburgh, but also the Southwest, has transformed and really diversified its economy over time. “Casey said in a phone interview before the event. “It’s not like the good old days when it depended on a few industries. It’s a much more resilient economy. It is an economy that can position itself well for the future.
Gainey trumpeted the $1.2 trillion bill that will “help us fix our bridges, our roads, our streets, and connect people with well-paying union jobs.”
Wolf said, “We need to invest in high-tech manufacturing. We need to make sure we bring manufacturing back to the United States. We need to invest directly in manufacturing. But we also need to invest in our infrastructure to make sure things like the Forbes Avenue Bridge don’t happen. It was a real drama. »
The event was part of a concerted effort by the president to get out of Washington, DC more often.
“I think it helps tremendously to be able to be physically present in different communities and to walk through and review the benefits of, in this case, one of the most significant bills passed in a long time,” Casey said. “It’s the infrastructure bill.”
“The Damage He Has Caused”
Republicans took advantage of Biden’s visit to criticize his policies.
“I’m glad President Biden is coming to western Pennsylvania to see all the damage he’s done to factories, mines, the energy sector, and the specialty metals industry,” said Republican Cambria County Chairwoman Jackie Kulback. “Trade unionists who lost their jobs because of Biden’s radical liberal policies will not be happy to see him. It is hard to see the damage it has done specifically to the power generation sector by forcing coal-fired power plants to close in our region. Western Pennsylvanians are hit with runaway inflation every time we buy groceries or put gas in their vehicles.
U.S. Representative Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Center, offered his thoughts on both Biden’s presidency and the bridge collapse.
“A year into Joe Biden’s presidency, voters in Pennsylvania are concerned about the highest inflation in more than 39 years, falling real wages and a supply chain crisis as failed policies of Biden continue to devastate families across the Commonwealth,” Thompson said. “There’s hardly any company I’ve come across that hasn’t had a supply chain issue that impacts their bottom line. This translates into higher consumer prices and hurts already stretched family budgets. »
Regarding the bridge collapse, he said, “In 2022, no one in the United States of America should have to worry about a bridge collapse. Fortunately, today’s incident did not cause any fatalities, but there were injuries. PennDOT inspected Fern Hollow Bridge in September, and four months later no details of the inspection are available. As a precaution, PennDOT should immediately conduct a safety audit of Commonwealth bridges. We need to make sure this agency does its job so that it doesn’t happen again.
Thompson voted against the infrastructure bill because, in his view, it did not invest enough in broadband and was not bipartisan enough.