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House Bill Seeks $20B for Bridge Repairs

Thursday, February 6, 2020

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Currently, there are over 47,000 bridges that have been classified as structurally deficient in the United States. To address the issue, members of Congress introduced the Bridge Investment Act—a bipartisan bill that intends to invest $20 billion into repairing the nation’s failing infrastructure.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-New York; Garret Graves, R-Louisiana; Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; and Darin LaHood, R-Illinois.

About the Legislation

In recognizing that there was no current federal program in place specifically for bridge repair and rehabilitation projects for infrastructure needing significant work, members of Congress decided to act, and in July 2019, introduced the bill’s companion legislation in the Senate’s America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act.

pabradyphoto / Getty Images

Currently, there are over 47,000 bridges that have been classified as structurally deficient in the United States.

“We’ve seen the tragic consequences of underfunding bridge maintenance in places like Atlanta and Minneapolis in recent years," 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.

“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. Department of Transportation estimates that there is $123.1 billion in bridge repair backlog, which includes $17.3 billion estimated for rural and local bridge repairs and improvements that are not listed on the federal-aid highway network.

Over the course of five years, the legislation intends to create a competitive grant program that will:

  • Rehabilitate, improve or replace bridges of all sizes, including local and rural bridges located off the National Highway System;
  • Supplement a 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, ensuring fair funding for projects across the country—regardless of project size;
  • Enable states and local governments with transportation function, federal land management agencies and Native American 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
  • Create American jobs by requiring compliance with Davis-Bacon, “Buy America” and other standard requirements for federal-aid highway projects.

Overall, the program will invest $20 billion, but if leveraged by state and local contributions, could increase to $40 billion worth of projects.

“Fixing New York’s bridges and roads has been a priority of mine since day one, and I’m proud to continue that commitment by introducing a strong, bipartisan bill that will reinvest billions into repairing our failing bridges and create good-paying, meaningful jobs,” said Maloney. “Families across the Hudson Valley deserve to know the bridges they travel over every day are safe and secure.”

The legislation is supported by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, the American Roads & Transportation Builders Association and the Associated General Contractors of America.

Previous Government Infrastructure Funding

Back in April 2019, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association reported that there were 47,052 structurally deficient or bridges that ranked as in poor condition from an analysis conducted of the U.S. DOT 2018 National Bridge Inventory.

Following on from last year, 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%.

By the end of the month, the U.S. DOT announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity totaling $900 million in grants through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development Transportation Discretionary Grants program.

The BUILD grants are intended for use toward roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports or other forms of intermodal transportation. The program also allows for special consideration to projects that emphasize better access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation in rural communities, however. The U.S. DOT added that it planned to award up to 50% of BUILD grants to projects in rural areas that align with the selection criteria.

In August, the U.S. DOT announced $225 million in grant funding for a number of road and bridge projects in rural areas, a move that was part of the Competitive Highway Bridge Program. The largest grant, totaling $33.4 million, went to the Iowa DOT for the improvement of 77 bridges that ranked in poor or fair condition.

Taking a different approach to rebuilding or removing deficient bridges, in September the Missouri Department of Transportation announced that a number of bridges were available for free. However, interested parties would have to pay for structure relocation. Those interested needed to submit proposals by March 2020.

In October, Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, and Congressman Clay Higgins, R-Louisiana introduced the bipartisan Fixing America’s Bridges Act. The legislation aims 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.

And last month, Secretary for the U.S. DOT, Elaine L. Chao, announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity totaling more than $900 million in grants through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America discretionary grants program.

Eligible projects include highway freight corridors on the National Highway Freight Network, highway or bridge projects on the National Highway System and projects expected to increase capacity on Interstates and other intermodal or rail projects.

These types of projects are also suggested to be positioned to proceed quickly to the construction phase where project costs may include reconstruction, rehabilitation, acquisition of property (including land related to the project and improvements to the land), environmental mitigation, construction contingencies, equipment acquisition and operational improvements directly related to system performance.

Applications for the grants are being accepted through Feb. 25.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Bridges; Funding; Government; Industry News; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Rehabilitation/Repair

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