Ohio River bridge inspection to take 2 more weeks

LOUISVILLE — Members of Kentucky's and Indiana's congressional delegations pledged federal assistance Saturday for reopening a key Ohio River bridge once engineers determine what's needed to repair defects found in the nearly 50-year-old steel span.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, and Todd Young, R-Ind., in touring the damaged portion of the Sherman Minton Bridge. Afterward, they said it would take engineers about two more weeks to thoroughly assess the bridge's condition.

The Courier-Journal reported that officials declined to discuss specific details of the briefing they received from bridge inspectors or to speculate on how long the bridge will remain closed.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels ordered the bridge's closure Sept. 9.

Yarmuth said inspectors told the group they have found "some other issues" with the bridge, but he would not elaborate.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, a Democrat, said keeping the bridge closed until engineers determine what repairs are needed was clearly "the responsible thing" to do.

Federal law states that emergency grants may only be used to fix or rebuild bridges that have been "seriously damaged by natural disasters or catastrophic failures due to an external cause." The law says the money cannot be used for bridges that have been permanently closed because of imminent danger of collapse, although at least one exception has been made.

Yarmuth said he and Young are working on legislation that would make the Minton eligible for federal emergency money.

Yarmuth said he believes President Barack Obama should visit the Minton later next week instead of a planned trip to the Brent Spence Bridge, which carries traffic on Interstates 71 and 75 between Cincinnati and Covington.

Obama plans to visit that bridge to push his jobs program.

Yarmuth said he's reached out to the White House through a congressional liaison and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

"Maybe ... next Thursday they will take a detour. We hope so," the congressman said.

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