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ST. LOUIS • Vice President Joe Biden stood in a light drizzle near the Mississippi River on Tuesday, amid gravel piles and construction equipment, and marveled at the Gateway Arch in the distance — a symbol, he said, not just of westward expansion, but of federal-local partnership.

“This iconic landmark ... is a metaphor for America never resting,” Biden told a small audience of local dignitaries in recognizing progress on the $380 million renovation of the Gateway Arch grounds. He called the Arch itself “an investment” for St. Louis that has already been paying off for decades.

“There are now those in Congress ... who say we can’t afford these kinds of investments,” said Biden, in a jab at congressional Republicans.

As with Biden’s earlier visit to the St. Louis region in February, the theme of the presentation was all about the argument that federal infrastructure spending, combined with local governmental and private investment, is a legitimate economic driver — a stance that many conservatives dispute.

Now, as then, Biden invoked Abraham Lincoln’s support of building the transcontinental railroad as an earlier example of that philosophy.

Biden was joined at the event by Mayor Francis Slay, who noted that federal involvement in the project is being joined with St. Louisans who voted to tax themselves for it. “We are showing the country a new way to get things done,” Slay said. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell was also on hand.

Biden’s planned speech at the outdoor event was shortened, he said, because of the rain, which intensified as he spoke. He wrapped up the presentation with, “Let’s get the hell out of the rain.”

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Kevin McDermott is a member of the Post-Dispatch Editorial Board.