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Beshear, Obama talk bridges, coal in jobs bills meeting

By Roger Alford

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Sept. 22 2011 3:20 p.m. MDT

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Steve Beshear put aside a perceived aversion to public appearances with President Barack Obama on Thursday to ask for emergency funds to repair a dilapidated Louisville bridge closed after a crack was found in a steel beam that supports it.

Beshear is seeking re-election this year and has distanced himself from Obama, who polls show to be widely unpopular among Kentucky voters. But with aging bridges along the state's northern boundary badly in need of repair, the Democratic governor reached out to the president during a meeting at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Airport.

Obama was pitching his jobs bill in Cincinnati by visiting the outdated Brent Spence Bridge that connects Kentucky and Ohio. That bridge, built in 1963, is only one of Kentucky's spans across the Ohio River that needs attention.

The Sherman Minton Bridge connecting Kentucky and Indiana at Louisville has been shut down since Sept. 9 after a crack was found in a steel support beam. Its closure has caused traffic nightmares in the state's largest city.

In a press statement Thursday afternoon, Beshear said he asked Obama to work with Congress on emergency funds to repair that bridge.

Beshear, who is being challenged by Republican David Williams and independent Gatewood Galbraith in the Nov. 8 general election, emphasized in the press statement that his meeting with Obama was a matter of great importance.

"I called on the president to expedite funding for repairs to keep our families working, and reminded him that deteriorating infrastructure is just one more example of what happens when Washington keeps playing partisan games and ignores the real needs of citizens," Beshear said in the statement. "We cannot afford to keep delaying repairs that stymie economic growth."

Beshear said he also talked with Obama about changes in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulatory guidelines that he said are jeopardizing thousands of jobs in Kentucky's mining industry. He said the changes also are having ripple effects on other job sectors, including manufacturing.

"These arbitrary changes in EPA guidelines cause unnecessary and costly delays in permitting, which compromise jobs and investments," he said. "It's time for the EPA to end these unpredictable policy swings and work with us on a reasonable policy that protects our families."

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