President Joe Biden has visited the collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh, striking evidence of a need for his one trillion dollars infrastructure initiative.
The bridge fell just hours before Mr Biden’s previously scheduled trip to the city to showcase his programme, temporarily stranding vehicles and people but causing no fatalities.
Mr Biden spoke to first responders and surveyed the empty space the bridge spanned before falling to pieces.
Mr Biden had spoken by phone with Pennsylvania Gov Tom Wolf and Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey about the early morning bridge collapse before taking off for Pennsylvania and offered federal support for the clean-up efforts, White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters en route to Pittsburgh.
“Our team remains in touch with state and local officials on the ground on updates and any additional assistance we can provide,” she said.
The bridge collapse — which caused no fatalities but prompted rescuers to form a human chain to retrieve people from a precariously perched bus — offered Mr Biden a striking example of what he has declared an urgent need for investments in the country’s infrastructure.
The steel span was built in 1970, and a 2019 inspection revealed the deck and superstructure to be in poor condition, according to the US Department of Transportation’s National Bridge Inventory.
The infrastructure law signed by Biden has earmarked about 1.6 billion dollars for Pennsylvania bridge maintenance, with tens of billions more for public transit, highway maintenance and broadband internet expansion in the state.
Friday’s trip was an opening step in a broader campaign to promote White House achievements in key states before the midterm elections.
It brought Mr Biden, a Pennsylvania native, home to one of the top-targeted states this cycle. The Pennsylvania battle to replace Republican Sen Pat Toomey, who is not seeking re-election, is expected to be one of the most competitive Senate races this year.
The White House announced Mr Biden’s trip on Monday after the president said last week he would look to get out of Washington more in the second year of his presidency.
Mr Biden, who has seen his poll numbers sink in the midst of an unrelenting pandemic and high inflation, said it was important that he “go out and talk to the public” about what he has accomplished and about why Congress needs to get behind the rest of his domestic agenda.
While in Pittsburgh, Mr Biden will focus on the economy, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
“He’ll be talking about how far we’ve come in getting our economy moving again, making more right here in America, and ensuring all workers benefit,” Ms Psaki told reporters at the White House on Thursday.