PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — President Joe Biden opened a two-day visit to the Pacific Northwest by focusing on the runway and roof of the airport where he landed Thursday than on any of the region’s more traditional, natural attractions.
Portland International Airport lies on a tectonic plate fault line but is working on a series of improvements, including a new, earthquake-resistant runway capable of accommodating jets coming and going even after a major natural disaster. The design would be modeled after the runway of the Sendai airport in Japan, which survived the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in that country, according to the White House.
The trip is Biden’s first as president to this part of the country and comes as he has increased travel across the U.S. to tout the $1 trillion, bipartisan infrastructure bill his administration backed and Congress approved last fall. Just since last week, Biden has been to Iowa, North Carolina and New Hampshire, and will travel to Seattle after the Oregon stop.
Upon arrival, Biden received a briefing from officials on a $2 billion airport improvement project, including upgrades to the complex’s roof — which will be disassembled into 20 sections and then pieced back together over the terminal. He posed for pictures with Oregon lawmakers and airport builders.
The president has been trying to promote the idea that he’s successfully advanced key policy goals — including providing badly needed funding for long-neglected public works projects around the country — despite Republicans in Congress opposing many of the White House’s priorities at every turn.
The GOP counters that Biden has done little to tackle many of the nation’s most pressing issues, failing to control inflation that has climbed to its highest levels in more than 40 years or slow crime rates that are on the rise in some parts of the country.
The White House says about 19.8 million passengers traveled through Portland’s airport in 2019, and that air cargo has increased more than 19% since 2019 as online commerce has grown amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden planned to attend two Democratic Party fundraisers Thursday evening before visiting Seattle on Friday. There, he’ll mark Earth Day by speaking about a need to bolster the nation’s resilience in the face of threats like wildfire, and a need to rapidly deploy clean energy, the White House said.
Biden called the infrastructure law “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build on these actions and accelerate our nation’s ability to confront the environmental and climate challenges we face.”
“For the future of our planet, for our health, and for our children and grandchildren, we must act now,” the president said in a statement.
Will Weissert reported from Washington.
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