Biden calls I-10 bridge over Calcasieu River a 'recipe for disaster' in Lake Charles speech
Less than a year after Hurricanes Laura and Delta devastated Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana, President Joe Biden stood on the edge of Lake Charles on Thursday and emphasized the need to rebuild the city and to replace the I-10 bridge, which he called “a recipe for disaster.”
Biden joined Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter as part of his Getting America Back on Track tour to promote the American Jobs Act. Biden’s speech took place just in front of Lake Charles’ I-10 bridge over the Calcasieu River, which was prominently featured in his plea for federal infrastructure funding.
"It's a perfect example of how we as a nation have neglected to invest in the future of our economy and the future of our people," Biden said.
Biden’s visit was met with local support for replacing the bridge, which was originally built to last 50 years in 1952. The bridge was built to sustain up to 39,000 daily crossings per day, though it currently handles nearly 80,000 each day.
The bridge, which narrows from a six-lane interstate to four lanes over the bridge, is a "recipe for disaster," the president said.
The American Jobs Plan would put around $115 billion toward roads and bridges, as well as hundreds of billions more toward other infrastructure improvements, such as more in upgrading our electrical grid and water infrastructure, rebuilding homes, and others.
For a city like Lake Charles, which has faced two hurricanes, a winter storm and a global pandemic in the last twelve months, the American Jobs Plan means building infrastructure that is better suited to face climate change and severe weather events.
"I promise you, we're going to build back better than ever," Biden said. "And build back in a way that all we build is better able to withstand storms and that are becoming more severe and more frequent than ever."
In his remarks, Edwards said the City of Lake Charles has clearly made progress toward its recovery, though he said the president would definitely see the need for continued federal support.
Infrastructure deficits are a concern statewide. Louisiana has 1,634 bridges and 3,411 miles of highway considered to be in poor condition. Louisiana also faces a $15-billion backlog of maintenance for roads and bridges.
"As you will certainly see, our needs still far exceed our means," Edwards said. "The fact of the matter is, we need assistance from the federal government in order to get many of these projects completed."
Hunter, a Republican, is a supporter of the American Jobs Plan, penning an op-ed with Shreveport's Democratic Mayor Adrian Perkins on the need to pass the plan.
When introducing Biden, Hunter said the City of Lake Charles continues to need the appropriate response from the federal government.
"COVID-19 and natural disasters have dealt major blows to this community, but none of them, none of them, were knock-out punches," Hunter said. "Lake Charles is a great American city, and we continue to need a great American response."
Biden also echoed the need for a bipartisan effort on infrastructure, saying he would be speaking with his "Republican friends up in Congress" about a compromise.
Biden also took a shot at former President Donald Trump's infrastructure pledges, saying it was always "Infrastructure Week," though it led to little action.
"I'm not ready to do nothing," Biden said. "I'm not ready to have another period where America has another 'Infrastructure Month' and doesn't change a damn thing."