Where's That Confounded Bridge? Obama Visit to Ohio Miffs GOP

Senate Republicans aren't rolling out the welcome wagon for President Obama's visit to Cincinnati next week, where he'll visit a bridge that the Obama administration is citing as an example of a needed repair job that could employ construction workers.

The White House calls the Brent Spence Bridge, which connects Cincinnati to Covington, Ky., "functionally obsolete." But it's not lost on Republicans that the president's visit to Ohio will be his 16th to the swing state as president.

Obama won the state in 2008, but Democrats lost big in last fall's midterm election as the governor's seat and the Senate races were captured by Republicans. Five House districts changed hands from blue to red.

Asked Thursday about the choice of the Brent Spence Bridge as a platform for Obama to sell his American Jobs Act, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the bridge is in need of renovation. The visit isn't merely political, he suggested.

"It's a bridge that's relatively easy to get to from Washington," Carney said. "It's not a coincidence in that it's a bridge that is one we can get to and highlight from the White House on a day trip that absolutely illustrates the problem we have with infrastructure in this country, roads, bridges, and other forms of infrastructure."

Indeed, the bridge, built in 1963, has long been in the sights of federal officials looking to renovate the stretch along Interstate 75, which the Federal Highway Administration says is long overdue for renovation to accommodate massive growth in the region over the years.

Analysis for the bridge repair began in earnest this year after initial drawings were submitted in April 2010. This month the FHA was to begin taking public comment. The FHA construction schedule lists its start time in 2015 with an estimated completion date of 2022.

But an aide to Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said there are a lot of bridges to fit that description, including ones in Virginia, which borders the nation's capital.

"That's relatively easy to get to from Washington," McConnell's office said in a statement released late Thursday.

The aide suggested Obama doesn't want to go to Virginia, also a swing state, the solidly Democratic Maryland or other nearby states because of the criticism he's been getting from his party's elected leaders. McConnell noted that Democratic senators from nearby Delaware, West Virginia and North Carolina have also lamented the president's spending and tax plans.

As for House Speaker John Boehner, whose district is near the bridge, he agrees the bridge is in need of repair.

Boehner "has long supported repairing the Brent Spence Bridge and is pleased the president is bringing additional attention to the need for it to be improved and eventually replaced," Boehner spokeswoman Brittany Bramell said Thursday.

But after the president's jobs speech to a joint session of Congress last week, Boehner said the bridge, while critical infrastructure to Ohio's economy, would not be the beneficiary of earmarks or deficit financing.