The new pedestrian bridge that links Omaha to Council Bluffs will open to the public on Saturday. Last night , the Council Bluffs City Council voted to name the bridge after former Nebraska Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey. The Omaha City Council will address that topic later today. The 22-million dollar project has some people upset.
There were several council members in Council Bluffs that were opposed to naming the span after Kerrey saying the name should reflect both communities. Kerrey secured federal money to build the bridge. Some are making accusations this is pork barrel spending. Kerrey disagrees.
Kerrey says: "And this is done very much publicly. This is a project that began several years before the earmark itself that has support of both the state of Iowa and the state of Nebraska with resources put in. Both the cities of Omaha and Council Bluffs are supportive. A considerable amount of private sector support for it as well so it wasn’t like I stuck an earmark, just dump a bunch of money into Nebraska and Iowa. There was a big effort underway." Kerrey stated there will always be those who oppose projects.
Kerrey says, "I would disagree. It is not to the public good if you are not part of the public that is going to be using this bridge. You can say that by someone saying I don’t drive across the Interstate 80 bridge. So why did they build a bridge that allows a car to go across the Interstate into Missouri when I don’t drive a car." Kerrey said that every public expenditure needs to be justified.
He says: "It is quite common for someone to say, ‘That doesn’t do me any good. I’m not eligible for Social Security. I’m not eligible for Medicare. My kids aren’t going to school.’ It is quite common to have a situation where an objection is going to be raised by someone saying why do I want to spend money in Sheridan County? Why do I want to spend money in Polk? Why do I want to put money into someplace where I don’t live? That is a very common and legitimate argument."
He says he "opposed putting my name on other things when state projects were done and I participated or in some cases led out the development of it. I’m honored by it. I’m much more excited about the bridge opening and getting it in a position where I can see people using it." A committee assigned to research the name submitted the "Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge" to Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey and Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan. That name was passed along to both councils. A dedication ceremony is planned for Saturday that includes the official lighting and fireworks.