AUDIO - Listen to Senator Murray speak about her amendment on the Senate floor.
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Subcommittee added a $1 billion amendment that would fund the replacement and rehabilitation of structurally deficient bridges across the country. Senator Murray offered the amendment to the Senate THUD Appropriations bill. It was agreed to by a vote of 60-33.
"Increasing traffic has put added stress on a system that simply wasn't designed for it and, as a result, our bridges are deteriorating far faster than we can finance their replacement," Murray said in a speech today on the Senate floor. "My amendment will allow for a historic increase in Federal bridge funding – a boost of nearly 20 percent."
Senator Murray's amendment provides an additional $1 billion for activities authorized under the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation program. This program provides grants to each State for bridge replacement, bridge rehabilitation, preventative maintenance, seismic retrofitting; bridge inspections, and activities designed to protect bridges and extend their life spans.
Under the Murray amendment, the THUD bill would remain within its budget allocations. The Full Appropriations Committee re-allocated unused funding from other areas in order to cover the spending.
For the past five years, an average of $5.3 billion has been spent on bridge rehabilitation and replacement. The Murray amendment would add to this level by about 20 percent.
The following is a state-by-state breakdown of how the extra $1 billion Senator Murray added today would be spent:
|District of Columbia||7,058,550||North Dakota||2,500,000|
Senator Murray's remarks on the Senate floor in support of her amendment follow:
Mr. President, less than six weeks ago, our entire nation and, indeed, the entire world, watched in horror as the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota collapsed into the Mississippi River.
Given the scope of the disaster, it is miraculous that the fatalities weren't even greater. Thirteen people lost their lives and over 100 were injured that horrible day. And we will all remember the horrendous vision of that yellow school bus – full of children -- that came within just a few feet of tragedy.
The National Transportation Safety Board is still conducting its investigation into the exact causes of the bridge collapse. But the horror of that incident has appropriately focused the nation on whether we are investing adequately in a national highway system that is fragile and aging.
Mr. President, the troubling conditions of our nation’s highways and bridges should not have been a surprise to the media or to our policy makers. This is not a story that has been kept under wraps.
This is not a case where the true conditions were just suddenly revealed in a groundbreaking study.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has, by law, been required to publish regular reports on the conditions and performance of America’s highway infrastructure.
The report is submitted to Congress and is posted on the web.
The DOT's report was used extensively in the debate we had with the Bush Administration four years ago over the appropriate amount of funding that should be authorized in the highway bill.
This report from the DOT is amplified by regular annual report cards published by the American Society of Civil Engineers along with regular studies by other groups.
The difference today, Mr. President, is that the nightmare became a reality for the people of Minnesota and Americans across the country watched live on television.
While we have built a national highway system that is the envy of the world, it is now no secret that our government has failed to adequately fund the maintenance needs of that system.
Increasing traffic has put added stress on a system that simply wasn't designed for it. And, as a result, our bridges are deteriorating far faster than we can finance their replacement.
This is why more than one-in-every-four bridges on US highways is rated as deficient. Put another way, fully 27 percent of our 600,000 bridges have aged so much that their physical condition or their ability to withstand current traffic levels is simply inadequate.
Roughly half of these deficient bridges – or about 78,000 bridges across the nation – are structurally deficient.
That means the Department of Transportation considers the physical condition of these bridges to be “poor” or worse. These bridges require immediate attention, and many of them will need to have weight limits just to keep them in service. For a portion of these bridges, their physical condition is so bad that they are unsafe and need to be replaced.
The other half of deficient bridges – or another 80,000 bridges across the nation – are functionally obsolete. They don’t meet today’s design standards, they don’t conform to today’s safety requirements, and they are handling traffic far beyond their design.
These deficient bridges are not just found “off the beaten path.” Indeed, over 6,000 bridges that are considered deficient are located on the National Highway System, the roadway system designated as most important to the nation’s economy, defense and mobility.
There are deficient bridges found in every state across the nation. My own state of Washington has more than 2,300 deficient bridges But certain of our states are struggling more than others:
- Iowa has more than 6,600 deficient bridges;
- Oklahoma has more than 7,400 deficient bridges;
- Pennsylvania has almost 9,600 deficient bridges;
- Texas has more than 10,000 deficient bridges; and
- California has more than 7,000 deficient bridges with more than 2,000 of those deficient bridges on the National Highway System.
The Department of Transportation evaluated the complete picture across the nation just last year when it published its conditions and performance report for 2006.
That report concluded that there is a $65.3 billion backlog of repairs that are needed on US bridges by all levels of government.
Unfortunately, the challenge of addressing this issue comprehensively is going to have to wait for the next highway reauthorization bill.
But I have offered an amendment to this bill that will add $1 billion to the resources available to all 50 states to help address their most critical bridge replacement and repair needs.
This amendment will not bust the budget. It can be accommodated within the budget ceiling that governs our subcommittee bill. It does not bust through that ceiling or bust through the discretionary spending cap imposed by the Budget Resolution.
Working with Chairman Byrd and Ranking Member Cochran, our subcommittee was allocated additional outlays that were not used by other Subcommittees specifically to accommodate the cost of this amendment.
My amendment would distribute this billion dollars strictly according to the formula that already exists in the code for the bridge replacement and rehabilitation program.
This formula, by law, takes into account:
- The physical condition of bridges in each State;
- The cost to rehabilitate or replace deficient bridges;
- Current safety standards and traffic demands; and
- The role of the bridges in the overall transportation system.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that a table displaying the distribution of this funding to all fifty states be included in the record at this point.
Consistent with the rules that are already in the law for the bridge program, these additional funds will be available to the states for:
- Bridge replacement;
- Bridge rehabilitation;
- Preventative maintenance;
- Seismic retrofitting;
- Bridge inspections; and
- he installation of countermeasures designed to protect bridges and extend their lifespans.
Importantly, Mr. President, my amendment does include one restriction that is not included in current law.
My amendment will require the Secretary of Transportation to ensure that these additional funds be used to enhance planned expenditures by the states for bridge construction and repair.
Under current highway law, states have the flexibility to use obligational authority for many different uses. States may transfer funding between program activities so they can target Federal funds on their most urgent needs.
My amendment would not disturb that flexibility for the over $40 billion that we are allocating to the states in regular Federal-aid funding.
However, my amendment would require the States to use the additional billion dollars that we allocate with this amendment solely for their most critical bridge activities.
Mr. President, this amendment is a very measured response to a very big problem. I know that our states need even greater resources to address their bridge repair needs.
But my amendment will allow for a historic increase in Federal bridge funding – a boost of nearly 20 percent.
And it will do so while working within the constraints of the Budget Resolution.
I urge my fellow Senators to support this amendment. The American people deserve to feel safe on our roads and bridges. We should take every step necessary to ensure that they are.