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At CT bridge, Democrats highlight infrastructure bipartisanship amid House GOP chaos

Standing under what President Joe Biden said was "a giant bridge, man," Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg celebrates a $158 million federal grant to repair and update the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in New London.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg celebrates a $158 million federal grant to repair and update the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in New London on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in New London Wednesday. The Gold Star is one of four bridge projects across the country receiving funding from the first round of a highly competitive grant program in President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Last week, the federal Department of Transportation awarded the state $158.2 million to accelerate the rehabilitation of the northbound span of the bridge between New London and Groton. The U.S. DOT said the money will fund structural improvements to the 80-year-old Gold Star, which is Connecticut’s longest bridge. As of right now, the bridge is not safe for oversize trucks to cross.

“A significant portion of our national freight moves right on this span,” said Buttigieg. “When those overweight trucks have to [reroute], that adds another 9 miles right there. We know that that has cost time and money, in addition to adding emissions into our atmosphere.”

Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti added that these big trucks have to pass through 20 traffic lights, which has caused traffic problems in the area.

The infrastructure law provided $1 trillion that Biden's administration is doling out for roads and bridges, broadband networks and water projects across America. The money will be critical, not just for the communities getting the help, but also to the Democratic president’s political theory that voters are hungry for bipartisanship that delivers tangible results.

“[This is] our first major announcement of the new year,” said Buttigieg. “We’re announcing the first round of funding through a new program that was created under President Biden’s leadership to fix bridges and projects that were so big that they couldn’t really fit into any federal program.”

In a statement, federal transportation officials said the Gold Star was chosen because of its role connecting New York and New England. This grant is part of a federal program that the department said is the largest dedicated investment in highway bridges since the construction of the interstate highway system.

The project is slated to end in 2025, according to Giulietti. He said this federal funding has shaved at least one year off the completion time for the repairs, for which the state has been searching for funding for several years.

Wednesday’s event in Connecticut comes as Biden stopped in northern Kentucky at the perennially congested bridge spanning the Ohio River that has frustrated motorists for decades. The infrastructure law will offer more than $1.63 billion in federal grants to Ohio and Kentucky to build a companion bridge that will help unclog traffic on the Brent Spence.

“It’s a giant bridge, man,” Biden said this week when asked about his planned trip to the bridge. “It’s a lot of money. It’s important.”

Other top administration officials are holding similar events at other major bridges in the U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris stopped by the collection of bridges crossing the Calumet River in Chicago on Wednesday, and White House infrastructure coordinator Mitch Landrieu was to be at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on Thursday with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

This story contains information from the Associated Press.

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