The U.S. Senate has agreed to include an amendment to its transportation spending bill to provide an additional $1 billion for the nation’s bridges.
If the $104.6 billion Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee bill is approved by the Senate, it must meet approval in a joint conference of the House and Senate. The House of Representatives approved $104.4 billion earlier this summer for transportation and housing.
On Monday, Sept. 10, Senators voted 60-33, with seven senators not voting, to accept the amendment introduced by Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA.
Forty-seven Democrats supported the amendment along with 13 Republicans.
Bridge funding became a hot-button issue for lawmakers following the tragic collapse of the Interstate 35 bridge in Minneapolis during rush hour on Aug. 1.
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation show that more than 73,700 of the approximately 597,000 bridges in the country are structurally deficient – meaning they are in need of repair or replacement. Another 80,200 are functionally obsolete, meaning they have outlived their capacity or estimated lifespan but are still structurally sound.
During debate on Monday, Sept. 10, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-LA, spoke in favor of the bridge amendment, despite recognizing that her state alone – with numerous aging bridges spanning the Mississippi River in parishes with struggling economies – would need $10.5 billion to replace bridges.
“Louisiana is not unlike most other states with a backlog of transportation projects,” Landrieu stated from the Senate floor.
At press time, the Senate was still debating the overall spending bill.
In the House of Representatives, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chaired by Rep. James Oberstar, D-MN, is considering efforts to fund bridges.
Oberstar has suggested the creation of a bridge trust fund, similar to the Highway Trust Fund but dedicated for bridges.
– By David Tanner, staff writer