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President's visit jams Ohio-Ky traffic

By Dan Sewell

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Sept. 22 2011 3:36 p.m. MDT

The 1960's built Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River that connects northern Kentucky with Cincinnati is shown, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011, from Covington, Ky. President Obama has picked the bridge as a site to highlight his jobs plan in a speech Thursday beneath the bridge in Cincinnati. The bridge is located near Republican House Speaker John Boehner's district.

Al Behrman, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

CINCINNATI — Nothing like a presidential visit to make bad traffic worse.

Ohio and Kentucky transportation officials had warned motorists to expect long delays Thursday afternoon around the time President Barack Obama visited Cincinnati, and the forecasts were timely.

An hour after Obama's speech at a concrete company by the Ohio River, southbound traffic was crawling through Cincinnati toward Kentucky at 10 mph. Northbound lanes, however, recovered quickly while some side roads were snagged badly by a visit that lasted less than two hours..

"It's not going to be fun going home," said Jeannie Cox, who works in downtown Cincinnati but lives across the river in Erlanger, Ky. "But it won't be the first time."

The president mentioned the way traffic backs up even in normal conditions at the outdated Brent Spence Bridge, during his speech urging Republicans to back his jobs bill to get such infrastructure projects moving. He also called out by name both House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, saying they are powerful Republicans who can either "kill this bill or pass this bill" and help their home states.

That brought chants of "Pass that bill!" from the crowd standing under the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge over the Ohio, with the Brent Spence in the background just to the west.

Obama was accompanied by Kentucky's other senator, Republican Rand Paul, who is offering an alternative infrastructure plan to redirect federal funds to high-priority projects. That introduction got some boos from a crowd loaded with union workers and Democratic activists, but Obama quickly told the crowd Paul is going to support bridge projects.

The president also joked about the Cincinnati Bengals' nearby practice field, saying: "I was scouting out some plays in case they play the (Chicago) Bears."

Hamilton County GOP leader Alex Triantafilou called the Brent Spence "a nice political background for a campaign speech." He and other Republican officials say the bridge overhaul has long had bipartisan support, but is years away from the start of construction that would produce many new jobs.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, said he understood why Obama was in his state, saying presidents "have to get out and sell their program."

Kasich told reporters in Columbus: "If he comes in and tries to tell me how to do my job, that might be another story. But he has a right to come in here."

Kasich said he'd like to see the president pushing for the uranium enrichment project in Piketon, in southern Ohio, that has had difficulty securing a crucial $2 billion federal loan guarantee.

"That would be a huge, huge plus for Ohio," Kasich said.

Associated Press writer Ann Sanner in Columbus contributed to this report.

Follow Dan Sewell at http://www.twitter.com/dansewell

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