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Facing heat on bridges, Yarmuth to tour Sherman Minton with U.S. Transportation Secretary

by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on September 20, 2011 at 4:16 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 21 at 12:41 AM

(WHAS11) The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Ray Lahood, and the head of the Federal Highway Administration, Victor Mendez, will tour the closed Sherman Minton Bridge on Friday.

Among the elected leaders scheduled to accompany the transportation officials are U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R) and Congressman John Yarmuth (D).

Yarmuth is caught in the crosshairs of the battle between east end bridge supporters and River Fields, the principal opponent of an east end bridge.  Yarmuth is a former trustee of the environmental group.

Several days after former Congresswoman Anne Northup asserted that Yarmuth had dropped the ball on the Ohio River Bridges Project, Humana co-founder David Jones reiterated that criticism on Tuesday, despite's Yarmuth's insistence that he does, in fact, support the bridges' construction.

"Call Congressman Yarmuth.  This is his district," Jones said at a news conference, "He has a responsibility to us."

Jones said Yarmuth and other elected leaders should demand an emergency declaration from President Barack Obama that would trump any legal action from River Fields.

"All that stuff would go away," Jones said.

"There are some problems with the solution that he proposed," Yarmuth said in a WHAS11 interview, "unless you really could just wipe away all the regulations and all the laws and all the processes that are in place.  It would be nice to try to do that, it's unrealistic."

Jones said Yarmuth called him on Friday to explain that a quote in the Courier-Journal had taken him out of context. Yarmuth was quoted as saying that Jones "tends to simplify what is a very complicated planning process.”

"I said, 'John, you're right,'" Jones recalled, "'That's what leaders do.  They focus.  They simplify.  They communicate.  They inspire.'  And that's what we need today."

"And we don't see that from our Congressman," Jones continued, "He needs to get off the fence, come out four square for this."

Yarmuth has repeated his support for the project, yet has not joined calls for River Fields to drop its lawsuit which alleges that the project has not not followed federal guidelines.

Yarmuth has said that it is not his place to supersede anyone's legal perogative.

"Unless you actually change the laws that we're operating under," Yarmuth said, "then it's got to take a certain amount of time."

A Metro Council resolution is also calling on elected leaders to move the project forward, and for River Fields to drop legal action. 

"This is all a smokescreen to make us the scapegoat for their failure to come up with a funding plan and the money," said Lee Cory, River Fields Board of Trustees President.

Cory said there is no obstruction because there is no injunction stopping the construction.  Bridge advocates say the legal maneuevers have stifled financing.

Jones said Yarmuth should call President Obama to jump start the east end bridge.

"Do his very best to solve the problem today," Jones said, "If he doesn't, I hope you all remember that at election time."

 

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