“We're standing here in the shadow of the I-10 bridge, which I've gone over several times myself in the past,” Biden said in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Thursday. “And it’s a perfect example of how we've neglected as a nation to invest in the future of our economy and the future of our people.”
The Calcasieu River Bridge, which connects Lake Charles to Westlake, opened to traffic in 1952, and despite only being meant to last for 50 years, is still operational nearly seven decades after its construction.
The bridge was categorized as being in “poor condition” at its most recent inspection, Biden said, praising local officials for moving forward with a project to replace the bridge in recent months.
Biden’s visit to the state is part of a series of recent travel by the president, vice president and other administration officials, meant as a tour to pitch Biden’s infrastructure proposal directly to the American people.
Thursday’s visit focused on the American Jobs Plan, the $2.3 trillion proposal that includes funding for things like roads, pipes and bridges but also areas like the home health care industry, schools and child care facilities.
Biden’s plan also includes $621 billion for “transportation infrastructure and resilience,” per the White House, with $115 billion specifically allocated to repairing bridges, highways, roads, and main streets whose upgrades have been long overlooked.
“[The American Jobs Plan] repairs 10,000 bridges that desperately need to be upgraded. Bridges that get kids to school, people to market,” Biden said Thursday. “When you build better roads, or extend the train line over to the next town, or install reliable high speed internet, it sparks new life and investment in communities.”
The president was joined Thursday by the city’s Republican mayor, Nic Hunter, and the Democratic mayor of Shreveport, Adrian Perkins, two men who recently teamed up to write an editorial urging passage of the jobs plan.
Hunter on Thursday thanked the president for his visit, saying while there are many policy areas they likely don’t see eye-to-eye, they can “agree on the need for an infrastructure package” to help the people of Louisiana.
“Mr. President, any members of Congress out there who might be listening, Lake Charles needs help right now. And we’re asking for it,” Hunter said, stressing that the city is still reeling from a series of devastating weather events.
The city was hit by Hurricane Laura in August of last year; Hurricane Delta followed in October, leaving behind a combined $26 billion in damages, per some estimates.
“Every day that goes by without disaster relief, and without infrastructure investments that can bring a new I-10 bridge, is a day that Washington, D.C. is failing the people of southwest Louisiana,” Hunter said.
“It's hard to believe that you got hit as badly as you have within the time frame that you have,” Biden said of the storm damage, promising that his American Jobs Plan would not only build back the damaged infrastructure, but would do so “in a way that it has resilience.”
After his remarks in Lake Charles, the president went on to visit New Orleans, where he was scheduled to tour a major water plant in the area.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One earlier, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre pointed to hurricane damage in the state as one reason for the visit and the focus on rebuilding.
“These Louisiana cities show why we need to make critical investments in our country's physical and human infrastructure to become competitive in the 21st century,” said White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “This is a blue collar blueprint to build America.”
As the White House has pitched the infrastructure plan as a “once-in-a-generation investment” in the country, both Republicans and moderate Democrats have balked at both the wide scope of the plan and Biden’s proposal to pay for it by raising corporate taxes.
On Thursday, Jean-Pierre said the only “red line” for the president was inaction, and she said he’s open to compromise while making sure that payment for the plans is fair.
“He believes we cannot put this burden on Americans and he wants to make sure that it's paid for,” she told reporters. “White House senior officials will have conversations with Republicans with Democrats on how to move forward with this plan.”