Last week, four U.S. representatives in Congress introduced the Bridge Investment Act—a bipartisan bill that aims to invest $20 billion into repairing America’s structurally deficient bridges and streamline the bridge repair process with a competitive grant program.
U.S. Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-New York), Garret Graves (R-Louisiana), Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), and Darin LaHood (R-Illinois) introduced the bill. Bipartisan companion legislation was included in the Senate’s America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act and passed out of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee in July of 2019.
“We’ve seen the tragic consequences of underfunding bridge maintenance in places like Atlanta and Minneapolis in recent years," Rep. Garret Graves said in a statement. "There is a big difference between a crack on a road and a crack on a bridge. There must be special attention to bridges as their failure can compromise entire regional transportation systems. With two-thirds of the continental United States’ water draining into the Mississippi River system, Louisiana has the highest number of bridge crossings per mile in the nation. This grant opportunity will help us focus on updating our bridges to support a safe and efficient transportation system, and I look forward to supporting this bipartisan provision in the upcoming reauthorization of our highway and surface transportation programs.”
The U.S. has approximately 47,000 structurally deficient bridges that need significant repairs or replacement to address structural elements that are in poor condition. Many more bridges have outdated designs that contribute to accidents and traffic congestion. The U.S. DOT estimates there is a $123.1 billion bridge repair backlog, including $17.3 billion worth of needed repairs and improvements to rural and local bridges located off the federal-aid highway network. Despite the need, there is no federal program that directs funding specifically to bridge repair and rehabilitation projects.
The Bridge Investment Act would invest $20 billion over 5 years in bridge repairs that would be leveraged by state and local contributions, resulting in up to $40 billion of projects; create a competitive grant program to rehabilitate, improve or replace bridges of all sizes, including local and rural bridges located off the National Highway System; supplement new federal formula funding in an infrastructure package with the $20 billion to address the bridge repair backlog; establish a non-partisan, standardized evaluation process for proposed projects and expected benefits; enable states and local governments with transportation function, Federal land management agencies, and Indian tribes to apply for the grants; streamline repairs of medium and small projects by bundling into a single application; allow large projects to receive multi-year grant agreements; and help create jobs by requiring compliance with Davis-Bacon, “Buy America,” and other standard requirements for federal-aid highway projects.
SOURCE: Office of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney