Democratic transportation leaders led by Nick J. Rahall, (D-W. Va.) introduced a bill this week to provide $5.5 billion to repair the nation’s growing list of aging bridges.
Rahall, the ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the recent collapse of the Interstate 5 bridge in Washington state only underscores the need to fix structures used by millions of drivers daily.
“Congress simply cannot keep hitting the snooze button when it comes to needed investment in our Nation’s bridges or think that these aging structures can be rehabilitated with rhetoric,” he said in a press release announcing the legislation.
Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), who represents the Washington district where the northern portion of the I-5 bridge is located, added: “We need to maintain our bridges until they are old and then we need to replace them. We can’t keep waiting until they crumble into the water below. It’s time to put our money where our safety is.”
According to the Department of Transportation, there are more than 150,000 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges in the United States today. (It’s important to note that a bridge can fall into one of these two categories but still be in use and not at risk of immediate collapse.) The District has the highest percentage of bridges — 77.4 percent — that fall into one of these two categories, compared with 27.7 percent of Maryland’s bridges and 26.7 percent of Virginia’s. Overall, about one-quarter of the nation’s bridges fall into one of the two categories.
Under Rahall’s bill, the District, Maryland and Virginia would receive more than $337 million in funding over two years to strengthen and fortify bridges. According to DOT, there is a $121.2 billion backlog of deficient highway bridges.