Legislation Could Provide Funding for Nationally & Regionally Significant Bridges

U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rob Portman (R-OH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), John Boozman (R-AR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced their bipartisan Bridge Investment Act ahead of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee highway markup this week. This bill would establish a competitive grant program to assist the repair and replacement of deficient and outdated bridges and ease the national bridge repair backlog. The EPW Committee will vote on this legislation tomorrow, and it is then expected to be included in a larger surface transportation bill considered on the Senate floor. The Senators previously introduced this legislation in 2019.

“Rebuilding bridges across the U.S. will create new jobs and make our country more competitive,” said Brown, who serves as Chairman on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. “Ohio has more than 3,200 bridges that need to be repaired or replaced to make them safer and reduce congestion. But states and cities can’t do it alone – they need real investment to help fix these outdated bridges that clog up our roads and leave drivers at greater risk of an accident. This bipartisan program will help deliver a new Brent Spence and make travel safer across Ohio.”

“Oklahomans are well aware of the need to invest in bridges,” said Inhofe. “Our state used to be one of the worst states for having a high number of structurally-deficient bridges, but because of my work in SAFETEA-LU, MAP-21 and the FAST Act, Oklahoma received the federal resources needed to make bridge repairs and replacement a priority. Today, we are ninth in the nation for having the fewest number of structurally deficient highway system bridges. Now, we cannot rest on our past success, we need to continue to make improving our nation’s infrastructure a priority. That’s why I am glad to re-introduce the Bridge Investment Act alongside Sen. Brown and I will work to ensure its inclusion in the bipartisan Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021.”

“The Ocean State has no shortage of bridges in serious need of repair or replacement,” said Whitehouse. “Competing pressures on state and local budgets over decades have led to a massive national backlog of bridge projects. Our bipartisan Bridge Reinvestment Act will invest billions of dollars in bridge upgrades in Rhode Island and across the country, making roads safer for drivers and creating good jobs in the process.”

“Many of Mississippi’s bridges were built decades ago and are in need of major repairs. This problem also exists across the nation. The Bridge Investment Act would launch a competitive federal grant program specifically designed for bridges, allowing states like Mississippi to access much-needed resources to complete these capital-intensive projects,” said Wicker, who serves as ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

“Oregonians strongly support investments in our crumbling infrastructure. With half of Oregon’s bridges being more than 50 years old, our state is particularly vulnerable. Bridges allow goods to move to market and commuters to get to work, and the Bridge Investment Act would provide a critical boost of funding to improve safety and promote economic growth,” said Wyden.

“I’m pleased that the Bridge Investment Act will be included in the bipartisan transportation bill being considered by the Environment and Public Works Committee this week because this common-sense legislation will get us that much closer to a solution for the Brent Spence Bridge,” said Portman.

“The recent closure of the Interstate 40 bridge across the Mississippi River demonstrates the need to ensure states have the funding necessary to make structural improvements to critical infrastructure,” said Boozman. “This legislation will allow targeted federal investments to make repairs to our aging bridges so we can prevent unexpected closures, promote safety and support economic growth.”

“Bridges across our country and particularly in Massachusetts are falling apart, threatening the safety and security of people who rely on these arteries for evacuation routes, commerce, and transportation,” said Markey. “We need to make a large investment in bridges to improve both the safety and efficiency of our infrastructure, including critical evacuation routes such as the Sagamore and Bourne Bridges on Cape Cod. These two bridges connect the nearly 250,000 people living on the Cape and Islands to the rest of Massachusetts, and they are in desperate need of replacement. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation today.”

“Mississippi, with nearly 6,000 bridges, faces the same challenges seen across the nation in terms of bridge disrepair,” said Hyde-Smith. “Our proposed competitive federal grant program and other reforms would help states and communities overcome the public safety, economic, and quality of life challenges arising from aged and compromised bridges.”

“Michigan knows the consequences of outdated and crumbling bridges,” said Stabenow. “Our bipartisan bill invests in our bridges and addresses our backlog of critical maintenance, meeting a need I hear about all the time from people in Michigan. This investment will give our state the tools to ensure our bridges are safe, create jobs and encourage economic growth.”

“Tennesseans, particularly those in Memphis and the Mid-South, know all too well right now the necessity of maintaining our bridges with the ongoing closure of the I-40 bridge,” said Hagerty. “Tennessee taxpayers are supportive of investing in hard infrastructure, which offers a tangible and lasting return on their investment and ensures our state remains a hub for competition and commerce.”

“I am as frustrated as anyone with the traffic and long commutes caused by aging, crumbling infrastructure in our state,” said Murray. “I’m committed to delivering Washington state families new, safe, and secure roads and bridges, and this bill would help do just that. By funding the construction of bridges big and small across the country, the bipartisan Bridge Investment Act is a commonsense solution to a huge piece of our infrastructure crisis, and would improve the daily lives and commutes of millions of people in Washington state.”

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The Bridge Investment Act provisions expected to be included in the EPW package would:

·         Provide $3.265 billion to fund the Highway Trust Fund, which establishes a bridge investment program to award competitive grants to certain governmental entities for projects that improve the condition of bridges as well as the safety, efficiency, and reliability of the movement of people and freight over bridges

·         Authorize an additional $3.265 billion that can be provided in future appropriations to support the new bridge program

·         Require strong Buy America rules, by requiring all projects funded by the grants to use American-made steel and iron

·         Ensure that a transportation bill could rehabilitate or replace bridges of all sizes, including nationally significant large bridges, like the Brent Spence Bridge between Ohio and Kentucky

·         Create an innovative evaluation process for proposed projects to ensure the fair and efficient allocation of federal funding

·         Provide quick grants for small bridge projects and allow projects to be bundled into a single application to cut down on red tape and accelerate repairs

·         Allow entities of all sizes and scope to apply for funding, including: states, counties, cities, metropolitan planning organizations, special purpose districts, public authorities with transportation functions, federal land management agencies and Indian tribes

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure found there are at least 46,154 bridges in the U.S. that are ‘structurally deficient’ and 231,000 still need repair and preservation work. Additionally, a report, released by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, estimates it would take nearly 40 years to repair the current backlog of ‘structurally deficient’ bridges in the U.S. at the current pace.

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Release from Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith.