Friday, February 27, 2004

Bunning clarifies stance on bridges


Senator equally favors spans in Louisville, N.Ky.

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Kentucky U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning acknowledged Thursday he may have misspoke last week in Louisville when he said construction of an Ohio River bridge there might have to be delayed because Northern Kentucky needs a new river span.

Louisville civic leaders were concerned when Bunning reportedly said that one of two bridges planned for the city would have to be delayed because money is needed to replace the Interstate 75 Brent Spence Bridge between Covington and Cincinnati.

After denying he made the comment last week at a luncheon in Louisville, Bunning sought to clarify his stance with a letter he sent to The Louisville Courier-Journal and released to reporters Thursday.

"If anyone takes away a different message from my recent remarks in Louisville, or if I misspoke and muddied the waters about my position, then I am sorry," Bunning, a Southgate Republican, said in the letter.

"But, the fact of the matter is, I support the Ohio River Bridges Project in Louisville. I always have and I always will," he said, adding that on six separate occasions since 1998 he supported funding for the projects.

In a conference call with reporters Thursday, Bunning said he is also continuing to push for funding to begin planning for the replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge, a project that could potentially cost close to $1 billion.

"We have to get some money in the (federal) six-year road plan before the Brent Spence Bridge falls into the river," he said.

"This takes nothing away from the bridges in Jefferson County. But it will be difficult" to get all the money needed at one time for all three bridges.

Sensing a political opportunity, state Sen. Dr. Daniel Mongiardo, a Hazard Democrat running for Bunning's seat, held a community forum on infrastructure Thursday night in Northern Kentucky.

"What happened this week only confirms why I'm running to replace Jim Bunning," Mongiardo said. "I'm not saying Jim Bunning is a bad guy, but I am saying he's letting us down as a U.S. senator.

"As a physician I have to be prepared, informed, decisive," he said. "I have to know what I'm talking about. Unfortunately, Jim Bunning doesn't."

Through a spokesman, Bunning declined to comment on Mongiardo's statement.

E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com




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