VOICES: Infrastructure bill means opportunity for Southwest Ohio

Dirk Q. Allen is a former opinion page editor of the Hamilton Journal News. He is a regular contributor.

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Dirk Q. Allen is a former opinion page editor of the Hamilton Journal News. He is a regular contributor.

Area U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson reportedly called it “sad” that 13 Republican congressmen broke ranks and voted in favor of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that recently passed Congress.

Perhaps he was misquoted?

Maybe he was actually “glad” that a baker’s dozen of fellow Republican House members had the good sense to take the interests of their constituents and the country into account rather than continuing with the toxic partisanship that is wrecking this country in the 21st century.

An infrastructure package has been long overdue. Not since the first term of the Obama presidency in 2009 has a major new infrastructure bill passed. That’s a lot of corrosion ago!

Davidson and his area GOP colleague Jim Jordan may be part of the fiscally conservative Freedom Caucus, but that didn’t stop those Republicans from marching in lockstep with President Trump as the national debt increased by 33 percent ($6.7 trillion) during his one term in office.

I don’t remember hearing fiscally responsible area GOP congressmen criticize the utterly ill-conceived trade and tariff wars initiated by President Trump that hammered U.S. farmers and required make-good federal payments to agriculture to increase by some $21 billion from 2017 to 2020 – from $11.5 billion to $32.8 billion.

The fact is that whoever is in the White House spends money, and the party of the president supports those expenditures. There hasn’t really been budget sanity in this country since Bill Clinton was president.

Now that the infrastructure package has passed, the Southwest Ohio congressional delegation should be lining up in a bipartisan fashion to prioritize some projects.

Former House Speaker John Boehner – who I have the utmost respect for – would never allow federal projects to trickle into the 8th District, and he was consistent on that. He never wanted to appear bought and paid for.

But if there are legitimate projects at hand – as opposed to “pork” money grabs – our legislators should be working the phones hard. For example, Hamilton badly needs a third bridge across the Great Miami River north of the city.

The mother lode project, of course, is the Brent Spence Bridge replacement across the Ohio River in Cincinnati. President Biden has already indicated that the project is a top priority. Area legislators should be pulling out all of the stops to keep that pledge on the front burner.

In early 1970, Ohio Gov. James Rhodes said that a connector between Hamilton and I-75 would happen for what was reportedly the largest city in the country without a direct link to an interstate. Instead, the Kent State shootings changed the focus– and the Butler Regional Highway didn’t open until 1998.

The economic impact of the Brent Spence Bridge bottleneck in Southwest Ohio – not just Greater Cincinnati – is substantial. Here’s what’s actually “sad” – that a federal highway planner would put two of the major interstates east of the Mississippi River – I-75 and I-71 – across the same bridge over the Ohio River. Now that the infrastructure bill has finally passed, it’s time to fix the traffic mess.

Dirk Q. Allen is a former opinion page editor of the Hamilton Journal News. He is a regular contributor.

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