Delegates tour Sherman Minton, mum on "other issues" - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Delegates tour Sherman Minton, mum on "other issues"

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LOUISVILLE, KY (WDRB) -- Transportation officials found "other issues" with the Sherman Minton Bridge, but a delegation of Congressional lawmakers from Kentucky and Indiana refused to provide details on the latest damage reports.

The delegation, that including Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, Rep. John Yarmuth, D-KY, Rep. Todd Young, R-KY and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, toured the bridge Saturday, pledging to provide federal assistance and find a quick solution.

Yarmuth said he was told by transportation officials that they found "other issues" with the bridge, but declined to provide specifics.

"This isn't elective surgery – we have to do this. It is essentially a life-threatening situation in terms of regional commerce. We have to do this," said Yarmuth.

The members spoke to reporters after touring the bridge and being briefed about its status Saturday morning. The bridge was shut down Sept. 9 after inspectors found cracks in a load-bearing beam. An inspector's report is expected to be complete in two weeks.

"When they give us that assessment, each of us will try to figure out what role each of us can constructively play to bring about a solution as rapidly as possible," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R- Kentucky.

While the delegation promised federal dollars, spending is a contentious issue in Washington, and how much money will be available is unclear.

Once the inspector's report is complete, the two states will then have to decide if the bridge needs to be repaired or replaced entirely.

McConnell refused to say if finding funding for the Sherman Minton Bridge would in anyway hurt the Ohio River Bridges Project. Yarmuth, however, said it's possible if replacement on the Minton is the only option.

"If replacement is the only option here, funding for that replacement would be in competition with the Ohio River Bridges Project," said Yarmuth.

McConnell said funding for the Sherman Minton could come from emergency funds in the federal highway bill. But Yarmuth said he was optimistic that Congress would approve "infrastructure spending" through a new jobs program announced by President Obama last week.

Obama will be in northern Kentucky Thursday to discuss that jobs bill and the Brent Spence Bridge. Yarmuth said he has reached out to the White House, urging the president to make a "detour" and come here instead.

Until then, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is urging patience for those commuters dealing with gridlock.

"We recognize this has been a tremendous inconvenience to the people using the bridge. The real nightmare of course would have been if the bridge had collapsed. We hope people keep that in mind when they are stuck in traffic."


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