UNITED STATES NEWS

Biden returns to a deteriorating Wisconsin bridge to announce $5 billion for infrastructure projects

Jan 25, 2024, 5:52 AM

President Joe Biden speaks with Craig Thompson, Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, ...

President Joe Biden speaks with Craig Thompson, Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, center left, as they look toward the John A. Blatnik Bridge between Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wis., Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Superior, Wis. Biden is returning to the swing state of Wisconsin to announce $5 billion in federal funding for upgrading the Blatnik Bridge and for dozens of similar infrastructure projects nationwide. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

SUPERIOR, Wis. (AP) — The last time President Joe Biden visited Superior, Wisconsin, he warned of the danger posed by the deteriorating John A. Blatnik Memorial Bridge as he pointed out that years of corrosion had weakened the overpass connecting port cities in Wisconsin and Minnesota and he pledged to fix it.

Biden returned to that bridge at the tip of Lake Superior on Thursday with plans to announce nearly $5 billion in federal money to upgrade it and dozens of similar infrastructure projects nationwide. As the Democratic president jump-starts an election-year push to persuade voters to reward him for his policy achievements in office, Biden is making his pitch in a critical swing state that is part of the “blue wall” trio of states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — where he defeated Republican President Donald Trump in 2020.

More than 33,000 vehicles travel on the Blatnik Bridge every day, but heavy trucks are barred because of its decaying condition and that has caused lengthy detours. Without additional federal dollars, the bridge would have had to shut down by 2030, according to the White House. It is getting $1 billion for upgrades and repairs.

Biden met with iron workers and local officials before a speech highlighting that the repairs to the Blatnik are being paid for by the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that Biden signed into law more than two years ago.

Though his visit is not officially a campaign event, his sharpened focus on Wisconsin with the election less than 10 months away highlights its place as one of a shrinking handful of genuine battleground states.

Four of the past six presidential elections have been decided by less than a percentage point in Wisconsin, with Trump winning narrowly in 2016 against Democrat Hillary Clinton before losing to Biden by a similar margin in 2020.

All signs point to Wisconsin remaining nearly evenly divided, even as Democrats have made gains in recent elections. A Marquette Law School poll released in November showed the 2024 presidential race to be a toss-up with the election a year away.

Democratic leaders in Wisconsin have stressed the importance of Biden visiting the state. Clinton’s defeat in 2016 was blamed in part on the fact that she never campaigned in Wisconsin after winning the Democratic nomination.

“He needs to be here, simple as that,” Democratic Gov. Tony Evers told The Associated Press in an interview this month.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan agreed, saying he has told Biden he must visit Wisconsin to highlight his investments in roads, bridges and broadband internet expansion and his efforts to bring down inflation and fight climate change.

“He wants to do that,” Pocan said. “He certainly understands the importance of Wisconsin.”

It’s not just Biden. Vice President Kamala Harris was in Wisconsin on Monday to promote the administration’s efforts to protect abortion rights. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is coming Friday to talk up Biden’s economic policies.

The visit marks his eighth trip to the state as president and his second to Superior, a city of 27,000 people along the shores of Lake Superior just across the border from Minnesota.

Democrats in Wisconsin have been on a winning streak. They have won 14 of the past 17 statewide elections, including Biden in 2020.

Democrats have been able to chip into the once-reliably conservative Milwaukee suburbs that saw GOP support drop in the Trump era. Democrats also capitalized on population gains in Dane County, home to the liberal capital city of Madison and the University of Wisconsin.

The Democratic moves have been able to help offset Republican gains made in rural areas during the Trump era.

Republicans chose Milwaukee for their national convention in July, with Democrats gathering just across the border the following month in Chicago.

___

Bauer reported from Madison, Wisconsin.

United States News

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Biden returns to a deteriorating Wisconsin bridge to announce $5 billion for infrastructure projects