Garret Graves among lawmakers to meet with Biden on infrastructure; 'top priority' is new bridge
WASHINGTON - Louisiana had a seat at the table as President Joe Biden met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers Monday to discuss infrastructure.
Among the congressmen and senators was Rep. Garret Graves.
"The president's opening salvo was talking about how he was open to negotiation, open to discussions on costs, and size and scope, and definition of infrastructure." Graves told WBRZ following the Oval Office meeting. "All those things were all things I wanted to hear."
That meeting, the first since Biden released his $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, came hours after the White House released infrastructure report cards for every state. Louisiana earned a D+ with thousands of miles of bridges and roads in poor condition.
"That's unacceptable," Graves said. "You have a state like Louisiana that is such an important infrastructure and intermodal center for this entire country."
While the nearly-two hour meeting covered broad discussions on what an infrastructure package would look like and cost, Graves was focused on one project in particular.
"My top priority is a new bridge crossing the [Mississippi] river," Graves said. That's my first, second, and third top priority."
Graves says he has made clear the need for a new Mississippi River bridge in conversations with White House officials.
Even with that project topping the congressmen's list, there is more to do than just finding the funding, he says, adding it's inexcusable that a location for a new bridge is still unclear.
"There's not a project for us to fund until they determine where that bridge is going to go, what the connections [are] to LA 1 on the west side, Highway 30, Nicholson on the east side, there's not a project for us to fund," Graves said. "The fact that we're even still talking about this is crazy. I mean this need has been there for decades."
Graves, who is against large portions of the current proposal, including corporate tax hikes suggested to pay for it, says he shares the frustrations of hundreds of thousands of capital area commuters. However, he believes, like the Comite River Diversion Canal and other projects, that a new bridge can finally get federal help after decades of inaction.
"The bridge is going to be a huge, a huge project, a huge challenge - the largest one before us," Graves said. But I'll tell you, I'm optimistic that we're going to be able to make some progress on it. But we've got to change the way that we actually deliver projects."
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