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September 23, 2011

LaHood touts passage of jobs act following tour of the Sherman Minton

Crack found two weeks ago has been repaired; more inspections needed

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Following a brief tour of the Sherman Minton Bridge, federal and state officials pledged the Interstate 64 span will reopen.

However, how long it will take to repair and reopen the bridge remains unknown.

“We are committed to getting this bridge open,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This bridge is too important to the people of this region, so this bridge will be reopened. And we will find the resources between the states and the federal government to make it happen.”

Whether the funding source will be the federal government, the respective states or some combination also remains unknown.

LaHood and other officials at a press conference Friday afternoon said that they would have to wait about a week to 10 days before the inspection is completed, and would then be able to address repairing the bridge.

“I wanted to be here to get my own eyes on what a serious problem this really is for the people traversing across here from Kentucky and Indiana,” LaHood said. “We will continue to work closely with Indiana and Kentucky to repair this bridge as quickly as possible. As soon as we have the evaluation ... we will make sure all interested parties ... know the extent of the problem, know what it will cost to fix the problem and know how long it will take to fix the problem.”

And a day after President Barack Obama used the Brent Spence Bridge — connecting Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati — as a symbol of the decrepit infrastructure across the country, and the need to pass the American Jobs Act, LaHood used the Sherman Minton Bridge for the same purpose.

“This is a symbol of what’s happening around America,” LaHood said. “Crumbling infrastructure, crumbling roads, crumbling bridges; pass the American Jobs Act and Americans, Kentuckians and Indianans will go back to work fixing up bridges like this.”

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul offered his own plan to fund the repairs for infrastructure around the country.

The Emergency Transportation Safety Fund Act he said he will introduce to Congress would prioritize 10 percent of the country’s transportation funds that are being designated for beautification projects and instead put the money in an emergency bridge fund.

Likely at the top of the emergency bridge fund would be the Sherman Minton Bridge, he said.

However, one group that did not offer a legislative plan to repair the bridge, and that was noticeably absent from the press conference, were transportation officials from Indiana.

The only two Indiana officials in attendance were Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galligan and New Albany Mayor Doug England.

Galligan said he spoke to INDOT officials earlier in the day and when he was asked if he knew why INDOT officials were not in attendance he said, “they thought it was about a jobs bill.”

But Galligan downplayed the political nature of the press conference and said the focus was on getting the bridge reopened.

“It’s about getting money to take care of these problems,” he said. “We need to get this bridge fixed.”

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Students who attended the Renaissance Academy's Culture Camp lead other students in an exercise, brainstorming thoughts, fears and opinions of the new learning style and school. The Academy is largely based on projects, working in groups and hands-on education.

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