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House Bill to Assist Local Bridge Repairs

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

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Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a program last Tuesday (Oct. 1), that aims to reestablish federal funding for repairs and replacements needed for local structurally deficient bridges throughout the nation.

The bipartisan Fixing America’s Bridges Act was introduced by chief sponsors of the legislation Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, and Congressman Clay Higgins, R-Louisiana, reporting that the act aims to help municipalities that struggle to afford necessary maintenance.

Deficient Bridge History and Government Efforts

Similar to the current bipartisan piece, last year in January, Senate Democrats introduced Senate Bill 2279—the Bridge Investment Act—which planned to allocate a total of $75 billion to projects on bridges deemed structurally deficient or functionally obsolete over the next 10 years in the form of a competitive grant program.

PIT airport, CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a program last Tuesday (Oct. 1), that aims to reestablish federal funding for repairs and replacements needed for local structurally deficient bridges throughout the nation.

According to the legislation, grants distributed as part of the proposed program would be at least $2.5 million for projects with a total budget under $100 million, and at least $40 million for larger projects. Recipients would include states, municipalities, governmental authorities and federal land management agencies working in tandem with states.

At the time, President Donald J. Trump was also in the process of discussing a $1 trillion infrastructure funding package that would reportedly use $200 billion in federal investment to leverage $800 billion in private investment. The package had already been pushed back several times, from mid-2017 to late 2017, and again in January 2018.

In April of this year, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association analysis of the U.S. Department of Transportation 2018 National Bridge Inventory reported that there were just over 47,000 bridges in the United States are classified as structurally deficient and in poor condition.

Although the number of structurally deficient bridges has declined slightly since 2017, the rate at which bridges are improved has slowed to the lowest point since the association began monitoring this data five years ago.

Following on from 2018, both Iowa and Pennsylvania again took the lead in terms of total number of deficient bridges—with 4,675 and 3,770, respectively. In Iowa, that accounts for 19.4% of all bridges, and in Pennsylvania, 16.6%. Both numbers are down from last year: In 2018, Iowa sat at 20.9%, with Pennsylvania not far behind at 18.3%.

Otherwise, the top 10 states in terms of structurally deficient bridges include:

  • Oklahoma (2,540);
  • Illinois (2,273);
  • Missouri (2,116);
  • North Carolina (1,871);
  • California (1,812);
  • New York (1,757);
  • Louisiana (1,678); and
  • Mississippi (1,603).

Again, matching last year’s report, Rhode Island has the highest rate of deficient bridges with 23.1% of its 780 bridges falling under the deficient criteria.

By June, Senators pushed for The Strengthen and Fortify Existing (SAFE) Bridges Act, which would approve $2.75 billion per year through fiscal 2025 for agencies tasked with fixing and maintaining bridges.

“As bridges in New Hampshire and across the country continue to crumble from disrepair, the need for bipartisan cooperation has never been more urgent,” Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, said at the time. “Continued neglect poses significant public safety risks and jeopardizes our economy.”

In September, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced $225 million in grant funding for several road and bridge projects in rural areas, a move that was part of the Competitive Highway Bridge Program.

According to the DOT, the program was created from 2018’s appropriated funding. Money went to 20 projects—from Alabama to North Dakota—represented by 18 state departments of transportation.

What’s Happening Now

In an effort to reestablish the federal Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program, the presented legislation hopes to provide federal grant money to states in need of bridge repairs or replacements found by the Federal Highway Administration.

Transportation Today reports that the act also plans to set-aside funds for local communities to aid locally owned bridges that aren’t a part of the federal aid highway system. Additionally, federal cost-share for local bridges would rise from 80-90%, reliving local entities of pricy maintenance.

“Investing in safe and reliable infrastructure promotes economic growth and benefits our communities. This certainly includes America’s bridges,” Higgins said in a statement. “Our legislation expands federal infrastructure resources and prioritizes bridge replacement based on structural integrity.

The Fixing America’s Bridges Act is supported by the National Association of Counties, National Association of County Engineers, North America’s Building Trades Unions and Soy Transportation Coalition.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Bridges; Funding; Government; Laws and litigation; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Rehabilitation/Repair; Repair materials

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