Biden visits Duluth and Superior to tout infrastructure improvements like Blatnik Bridge

Joe Biden delivers remarks
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his administration’s efforts to rebuild infrastructure at Earth Rider Brewery on Thursday in Superior, Wis. The visit comes after $1 billion in federal funding was granted to rebuild the Blatnik Bridge, one of the main connecting roads between Duluth and Superior.
Erica Dischino for MPR News

Updated 5:29 p.m.

Within blocks of a vital bridge that links Minnesota and Wisconsin, President Joe Biden proclaimed the country to be in an “infrastructure decade,” touting renewals of roadways, water pipes and more thanks to a massive financing plan approved during his presidency.

Alluding to his predecessor and renewed rival Donald Trump without naming him, Biden said during a speech in Superior, Wis., he has delivered on things the former president only talked about.

“He talked about infrastructure every week,” Biden said of Trump. “He didn’t get it. On my watch instead of infrastructure week, America is having an infrastructure decade.”

The Blatnik Bridge is covered in fog
The Blatnik Bridge is covered in fog Thursday in Superior, Wis. The Biden administration visited Superior after $1 billion in federal funding was granted to rebuild the Blatnik Bridge, one of the main connecting roads between Duluth, and Superior.
Erica Dischino for MPR News

Biden brought it even closer to home for the Twin Ports audience, pointing to a new $1 billion infusion toward replacement of the John A. Blatnik Memorial Bridge. That’s a key but crumbling corridor connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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“For decades people talked about replacing this bridge, but it never got done. Until today,” Biden said to applause. “Until today.”

Before his remarks of about 25 minutes, Biden greeted some construction workers near the old bridge, flanked by a cadre of Democratic lawmakers from Minnesota and Wisconsin. Among them were Govs. Tim Walz and Tony Evers as well as Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Tina Smith and Tammy Baldwin.

New Duluth Mayor Roger Reinert, a centrist Democrat, also attended the official event held in the production facility of Earth Rider Brewery, a small warehouse located just a couple blocks from the Wisconsin end of the bridge.

It was a small, invite-only crowd that included elected officials, labor leaders and private- and public-sector leaders from both Wisconsin and Minnesota.

In a quarter-zip pullover, Biden spoke in front of shiny fermentation tanks, pallets stacked with colorful beer cans on either side. “Bidenomics” was spelled out on a steel beam behind him. A sign reading “Investing in America” was perched on a stack of beer cans.

Biden contrasted his approach with that of Trump, again without using the Republican’s name.

“Invest in America, invest in American products, build in America. That’s what we call Bidenomics,” he said. “My predecessor though, he chose a different course: trickle-down economics. Cut taxes for the very wealthy corporations and increase deficits significantly.”

President Joe Biden delivers remarks
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his administration’s efforts to rebuild infrastructure at Earth Rider Brewery on Thursday in Superior, Wis.
Erica Dischino for MPR News

Deficits under Biden have continued to climb, and the national debt now tops $34 trillion.

The quick drop-in — Biden arrived in Duluth but quickly made his way to Wisconsin for the event — brought him to turf he won in 2020, where he has a pair of Democratic governors politically aligned with him and that are places he can’t afford to see his standing slip in this reelection year.

Biden encountered some political opposition during his trip. A couple of Trump supporters stood on a lift with an anti-Biden banner on the motorcade route, according to reporters traveling with the president. There was also a group of protesters chanting for Biden to seek an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

Protesters calling for a ceasefire
Protesters calling for a ceasefire congregate along North 3rd Street outside of Earth Rider Brewery where President Joe Biden delivered remarks on his administration's efforts to rebuild infrastructure on Thursday in Superior, Wis.
Erica Dischino for MPR News

In an election year, there are seldom coincidental White House trips. All have meaning, from the locale to the message. And this one is about demonstrating the $1.2 trillion infrastructure finance plan is going into projects long held back by high price tags or limited investment.

Biden ticked through a list of areas where money would go, from those that will expand access to high-speed internet to those that will help restore now-polluted waters. He said it has already added up to $6.1 billion in Wisconsin and $5.7 billion for Minnesota, a mention that drew enthusiastic applause from Walz.

The $1 billion toward replacing the aging Blatnik bridge will leverage $400 million that each Minnesota and Wisconsin set aside for the project. Work could begin next year.

Biden has made a stop near the bridge before. In a March 2022 visit, Biden shook hands with workers in hard hats and neon vests who assembled near the base of the bridge. It has become too corroded for heavy trucks, which complicates movement of goods.

The bridge is also used by 33,000 vehicles per day, linking the Twin Ports via Interstate 535 and U.S. Highway 53. At 8,000 feet, it’s the second-longest bridge in Minnesota, and third longest in Wisconsin. 

“So it’s a really important day for him, a full circle moment in terms of bringing the resources to Wisconsin to make sure that this bridge, this vital economic corridor that serves both states, that this continue to be operable in the future,” Olivia Dalton, White House principal deputy press secretary, told MPR News ahead of the visit. 

U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Minn., celebrated the Blatnik funding along with others in the Minnesota congressional delegation. Stauber voted against the infrastructure proposal in 2021, but said he continues to seek ways to steer money from it to the region.

“It was a really good bipartisan effort to secure that funding,” Stauber told MPR News this week. “In any legislation, there are always things you disagree with. And there were many things that I disagreed with in the bill. However, now that the bill has become law, I am going to advocate with ever fiber in my body to make sure these projects get the funding they deserve.”

In a statement released after tBidenleft the chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota David Hann was more blunt about what he described as the President’s “Bankrupting America” tour.

“As Biden showcases his economic policies in Wisconsin, it's crucial to highlight the real impact of these policies on ordinary midwesterners. In Minnesota, as in Wisconsin, families and businesses are enduring the harsh consequences of what we term 'Bidenomics.'“

Both states have 10 electoral college votes. Minnesota’s have gone to Democratic candidates in every race since 1976. Wisconsin’s have flipped between Democrats and Republicans in recent cycles, going for Biden in 2020 after landing with former President Donald Trump in 2016.