Transportation, economy are focus of local roundtable discussion
By Suhana Sinha
Cincinnati Herald Intern
One hundred days since coming into power, Vice President Kamala Harris is impressed with Cincinnati’s recent investment of the $130 million a year levy for Cincinnati Metro, road and bridge projects throughout Hamilton County.
Harris visited Cincinnati last Friday for the first time as Vice President to discuss improvements in Cincinnati and the world. Her visit to the region helped to promote the Biden administration’s American Jobs Act, which includes funds to create jobs and help improve the country’s infrastructure that is need of improvement. Funding for a new Brent Spence Bridge is possibly included in the bill.
Upon landing at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky greeted Harris, who spent some time interacting with the Beshear’s family, his staff and Cabinet.
Afterward, she made her way to 1819 Innovation Hub, the latest academic innovation investment by the University of Cincinnati, for the roundtable discussion on the economy with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) acting as a moderator, along with participants Darry Haley, CEO of Southwestern Ohio Regional Transportation Authority, Eddie Koen, President and CEO of Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, Jill Mayer, President and CEO of Cincinnati Regional Chamber of Commerce, Troy Miller, President/Business Agent, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 627, and Vikas Mehta, a professor, Fruth/Gemini Chair, Ohio Eminent Scholar and Urban Design Certificate Coordinator at the University of Cincinnati.
The discussion connected the development of local transportation with change in the social functions of Cincinnati. The aim was to increase accessibility to public transit, connect people to better jobs, reduce crime and poverty, connect communities of color with education, and bring racial equity.
The table suggests that Metro’s diesel buses will be replaced with green buses for greater sustainability. The participants assured that the outcome would not come at the price of current jobs. Instead, they would retrain over 200 employees for the new positions. Harris pointed out transportation is “about frequency.”
Mehta said, “engineering, tech, logistics, are soft infrastructure. Transit is not only technological, but emotional.” Associating transit with urban development, Mehta added, “The public transit runs in public and, in a polarized society, we need to address it critically for society and empathy.”
Connecting Cincinnati and Kentucky, Brent Spence Bridge connects thousands of commuters and is a vital connection in moving shipping across the country daily. Last year’s fire accident placed the bridge on a list of essential items both Ohio and Kentucky must have replaced. Harris’ visit acknowledges the importance of the bridge and promised further discussion in allocating funds for its maintenance under The American Jobs Act.
The roundtable touched on shortcomings of the current transportation system and laid out plans to improve it. Ending on a high note, participants agreed that, “the people you count on count on transportation.”
As the discussion came to an end, Harris was asked about America’s reaction to India’s rising COVID-19 cases. Extending her sympathies, she noted the Center for Disease Control has issued a travel ban from India will be observed from May 4, until the number of cases reduces.
Harris promises that after decades of relationship building, America will not abandon its allies and send out oxygen cylinders, vaccines, and other help to meet the rising coronavirus crises in India.
With dreams of making the Biden administration’s ambitious plans to rebuild America come true, the White House is seeking trillions of dollars from Congress trillions to keep that promise. The city’s development, ignored by the last two presidents, is now backed by the current Biden-Harris administration, she said.