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US House Speaker Promotes Transportation Projects

BRUCE SCHREINER

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) â¿¿ U.S. House Speaker John Boehner spoke in favor Monday of pumping federal money into transportation construction and speeding regulatory review of those projects â¿¿ comments that seemed to resonate in a region longing for new bridges to ease traffic snarls.

Boehner drew sustained applause from a crowd at the University of Louisville as the Republican speaker from Ohio touted transportation construction as a place where a fractious Congress could reach common ground in trying to jump-start job growth.

"Everybody believes we have infrastructure deficiencies and more needs to be spent to repair, replace and in some cases build new infrastructure," Boehner said in a speech that focused on the sluggish economy and persistent unemployment.

"The problem is nobody wants to pay for it."

Boehner did not specifically mention the region's bridge problems, but spoke broadly about transportation needs in his speech as part of the McConnell Center's fall lecture series at the university. Boehner shared the stage with his fellow congressional Republican leader, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who welcomed Boehner to his alma mater.

Many Louisville and southern Indiana commuters are dealing with long delays caused by the closure of the Sherman Minton Bridge.

The nearly 50-year-old steel span connecting Louisville and New Albany, Ind., along Interstate 64 will stay shut for repairs lasting several more months as workers fix cracks in the double-decker bridge.

The bridge closure has intensified the push for a more ambitious project to build two new Ohio River bridges in the area. The proposal includes a new span in downtown Louisville and one in eastern Jefferson County, Ky.

Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez has said federal officials are prepared to expedite the approval process for the additional bridges that have been in the planning stage for years.

Upriver, President Barack Obama visited in September drew attention to the outdated and overcrowded Brent Spence Bridge that connects Cincinnati and the northern Kentucky suburbs. The aging span is another key national artery for commerce.

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