‘We’re going to fix them all’: Biden decries ‘unacceptable’ bridge conditions in wake of Pittsburgh collapse

The bridge collapse happened hours before president was set to deliver key speech on economy and infrastructure

Eric Garcia,Oliver O'Connell
Friday 28 January 2022 22:27
‘We’re going to fix them all’: Biden vows to fix all bridges following Pittsburgh collapse

President Joe Biden has visited the scene of a collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh, which injured at least 10 people on Friday morning.

The president was already scheduled to visit the Pennsylvania city in the afternoon and speak at Carnegie Mellon University to discuss jobs, the nation’s economy, supply chains, and to tout his bipartisan infrastructure law.

In his remarks at the university, Mr Biden emphasised why investment in infrastructure is needed, saying: “We don’t need headlines saying that someone was killed when the next bridge collapses… We saw today, when a bridge is in disrepair, it literally can threaten lives… We’re going to rebuild that bridge.”

He noted that there are another 3,300 bridges in Pennsylvania, some just as old and decrepit as the one that collapsed, but the infrastructure law is now in place to begin the work of repairing or replacing them.

Earlier at the site of the disaster, meeting with first responders and local lawmakers, the president noted the scale of the challenge of repairing America’s infrastructure, both just locally, but across the nation.

“I’ve been coming to Pittsburgh a long time, and as a former Pennsylvanian, I didn’t realise there are literally more bridges in Pittsburgh than in any other city in the world. Did you know?  More than in Venice.”

“And we’re going to — they’re going to fix them all. Not a joke. This is going to be a gigantic change. And there’s 43,000 nationwide. And we’re sending the money.”

His remarks on the economy and infrastructure were originally scheduled in Pittsburgh because, as a one-time steel town, the city has worked hard to reorient its economy over the decades.

Joe Biden speaks at Mill 19, a former steel mill being developed into a robotics research facility, on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University

At Carnegie Mellon Mr Biden spoke at Mill 19, a manufacturing and research facility on the site of a former steel mill.

He said: “Instead of people saying you’re a city without a future I believe you’re a city of the future. You have some of the most innovative businesses, you have a future with some breathing room. We need to ease the burden that is placed on you, you deserve that.

“We need to ease the burden on working families... That’s what my Build Back Better plan is all about,” said the president. “That’s why those major corporations came to the White House asking to see me, to tell me they supported Build Back Better even though it was going to increase their taxes.”

During his remarks, Mr Biden touted strong job growth, particularly in manufacturing, during his first year in office, and spoke further about how his infrastructure law not just invests in repairing bridges, but also replacing lead pipes and expanding broadband access, which he said would create jobs for Americans “so nobody’s left behind”.

The president also announced that Union Pacific, one of the nation’s largest railroads, will make the largest-ever purchase of battery-powered locomotives when it adds 20 of them to its fleet.

President Biden tours Carnegie Mellon University at Mill 19 during a visit to tout the $1.2 trillion ‘Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act' in Pittsburgh

Friday’s trip is seen as the opening stop in a broader campaign to promote White House achievements in key states before the mid-term elections in November, and Pennsylvania is certainly near the top of that list. Mr Biden said at his recent press conference that he intended to spend more time on the road and out of Washington, DC.

As November approaches, there are likely to be many more speeches given by the president focused on Made in America manufacturing, strong unions, promoting technology, strong economic growth and jobs, and easing the burden on working families — as well as investment in infrastructure.

When news of the bridge collapse broke early on Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Mr Biden had been briefed, but that the trip was still on.

“The President will proceed with trip planned for today and will stay in touch with officials on the ground about additional assistance we can provide,” she tweeted.

Pittsburgh Public Safety said that the collapse happened at roughly 6.50am and that a gas line was cut after people could smell natural gas.

Mayor Ed Gainey mentioned the necessity of the bipartisan law signed in November, saying the “bipartisan infrastructure law is critical to southwest Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh. We know we have bridges that we need to take care of”.

At least four people required hospital treatment. A bus and five other vehicles were on the bridge at the time. The cause was being investigated, and crews searched under the debris for additional victims.

A large crack showed on the end of the bridge where the segmented bus landed 150 feet (46 metres) down in the ravine. The scene was likened to an earthquake.

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