PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — New details are emerging on President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to the Pacific Northwest, which will include a stop at Portland International Airport Thursday afternoon to promote investments into aging infrastructure around the region.
The president is expected to deliver remarks around 2 p.m. at the Portland Air National Guard Base. According to the White House, his speech will highlight the $1 trillion infrastructure plan he signed into law on Nov. 15 and how that fits into an ongoing project at PDX to make sure runways can survive earthquakes.
That project received $3.75 million in federal funds and was announced March 21 by Oregon’s U.S. senators, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon’s 3rd Congressional District.
“He was struck by the investment of the resilient runway and thinks it’s a great example of the types of projects that we’ll see by bipartisan infrastructure law, so he wants to see it up close and person,” Chris Meagher, deputy press secretary for the White House, told KOIN 6 News. “He knows that Portland is susceptible to weather like you’re experiencing right now, but also earthquakes, and it’s important that our nation’s infrastructure is able to withstand weather events.”
According to Meagher, Biden may address broadband internet and ridding the country of its lead pipes. Following the speech at PDX, he is set to meet donors and supporters at the Portland Yacht Club, as first reported by Willamette Week.
The president’s infrastructure-centric trip comes about one week after U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) toured the Interstate 5 Bridge connecting Washington and Oregon to talk about its replacement project.
Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle of Vancouver and a representative of the I-5 Bridge Replacement Program joined the senator on April 13 to discuss if federal funds from the infrastructure package could be used.
The bridge, which is a critical point along a major shipping corridor and links Portland to Vancouver, is over 100 years old. According to KOIN 6 News partner The Portland Tribune, it relies on old wood pilings underwater which makes it prone to collapse or heavy damage during an earthquake.
Although Oregon and Washington currently split the cost of maintaining the bridge — estimated at around $1.2 million per year — details on how its replacement will be funded are up in the air and the source of some contention among local leaders.
While the president has highlighted the I-5 bridge in promoting the infrastructure law before, it’s unclear whether he plans to speak on the project Thursday. He’s scheduled to meet with Wyden and Gov. Kate Brown.
The visit will also be the first time in nearly seven years a sitting U.S. president has come to Portland — when then-President Barack Obama appeared at a Nike event.
The last time Biden was in Oregon, it was for a fundraiser during the 2020 presidential campaign. In 2014 while vice president under Obama, he made an impromptu visit to the original Salt and Straw in Northeast Portland. Shelley Larkins remembers the motorcade shutting down Alberta Street.
“He created a lot of traffic but it was worth it to know he was in our neighborhood,” she said.
The Portland Police Bureau told KOIN 6 News it is not sure what roads, if any, will be impacted by Biden’s visit but that motorcades “travel quickly and interruptions are brief.”
His visit will delay some flights at PDX as the Federal Aviation Administration will implement a temporary restriction notice from noon to 5:30 p.m. for non-commercial aircraft.