House approves Rep. Oberstar’s bridge funding bill

| 7/25/2008

It’s been almost a year since the Interstate 35 bridge in Minneapolis collapsed on Aug. 1, 2007, killing 13 people including a truck driver.

“The tragic collapse of the I-35 bridge demonstrates the need to make a commitment to invest in the maintenance and reconstruction of our nation’s infrastructure,” said Oberstar, who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, on Thursday, July 24.

“Many facilities are being stretched to the limit of their design life and beyond.”

In response to a call to action by U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, D-MN, the House of Representatives voted 367-55 to approve a bill, HR3999, to intensify the inspection process and prioritize deficient bridges for repairs. The program includes $1 billion in new funding.

The bill is also known as the National Highway Bridge Reconstruction and Inspection Act of 2008. It is now up for Senate consideration.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and other highway user groups are hoping for quick passage and a presidential signature.

OOIDA Senior Government Affairs Representative Mike Joyce said the Senate has a limited number of days left before a scheduled August recess, which could put a strain on timing.

“It’s clearly an important issue, so there’s a chance it could get done. We support the bill,” Joyce said Friday, July 25.

Click here to review the bill, which includes 13 amendments added by members of the House.

Federal Highway Administration statistics show there are more than 73,000 structurally deficient bridges nationwide. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that it would cost $65 billion to upgrade or replace them all.

Oberstar’s legislation targets the National Highway System, which has 6,177 structurally deficient bridges and 17,167 functionally obsolete bridges totaling 23,344 in need of repair, rehabilitation or replacement.

– By David Tanner, staff writer