‘Nothing happened’: Biden slams Trump on infrastructure as he outlines sweeping plans in storm-battered Louisiana

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Joe Biden criticised Donald Trump for his administration’s failures to address the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, as the president promotes his $2.2 trillion “once in a generation” investment that would touch nearly every aspect of American life and tap millions of workers.

“Across the country, we have failed – we have failed to properly invest in infrastructure for half a century,” the president said in remarks from Lake Charles, Louisiana, which endured two hurricanes in 2020 in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Over the last four years, how many times did you hear this was going to be ‘infrastructure week?’” he said. “I got so tired of hearing ‘infrastructure week’ – nothing happened.”

Mr Biden’s American Jobs Plan proposes nationwide improvements to roads and bridges, water systems, broadband internet access and supply-chain production, among other areas, while arguing for US manufacturing and innovation to keep up with competitors like China and to meet the pace of the climate crisis and growing socioeconomic disparities.

In southwest Louisiana, that could include a replacement for the Calcasieu River Bridge in Lake Charles, which opened in 1952 and has been labeled “structurally deficient” by the Louisiana Department of Transportation.

The project was intended to withstand 70 years.

“That was 20 years ago,” Mr Biden said. “It shouldn’t be this hard or take this long to fix a bridge that’s this important.”

The president last visited Lake Charles when he was vice president in 2010, five years after the region began recovering from hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

Following hurricanes Delta and Laura in 2020, Lake Charles lost 6.7 per cent of its population, the highest rate in the US, according to an analysis from The New York Times.

Four per cent of its residents, roughly 3,000 people, remain displaced more than eight months after Hurricane Laura. Preliminary results from the 2020 Census found that the state saw a 2.7 per cent overall decrease in its population from a decade ago.

A housing study from the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana found all households in Calcasieu Parish filed claims with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and more than 44,000 homes – roughly half of the parish’s housing stock – were damaged in at least one of the storms.

More than a quarter of all homes were damaged and labeled “uninhabitable,” the report found.

“I know the times have been tough here, the damage from the hurricanes has been devastating,” Mr Biden said opening his remarks. “But the people of Louisiana have always picked themselves up.”

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