Securing America’s Bridge Infrastructure (Rep. Mike Conaway)

During the evening rush hour on August 1, 2007, the I-35 highway bridge that spanned the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota experienced a catastrophic failure and crumpled into the river beneath it, killing 13 people and injuring 100 more. Our nation’s infrastructure is crumbling due to improper planning, negligence, and inadequate management at all levels of governments.

A significant portion of our nation’s bridges, which were built in the 1960s, are reaching a point where structural soundness is an issue. 25% of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, according to the latest FHWA National Bridge Inventory survey.  That number is expected to increase, the FHWA reports, because of increased traffic demands, continued bridge aging and deterioration, and limited funds for rehabilitation and maintenance.

In response to the recent problems we’ve uncovered I’ve introduced the Bridge Life Extension Act of 2009. This bill sets new standards for bridges that receive federal funding by requiring the states to strictly define the preservation of structures and include corrosion mitigation and prevention plans for all bridges undergoing repair, rehabilitation or construction.  States will also be required to develop a project maintenance program that must contain expected useful life of the bridge and details of corrosion mitigation and prevention methods in construction and maintenance of the bridge.

The ongoing cost of corrosion on US bridges represents a needless waste of taxpayer dollars. We cannot ignore the fact that lives have been lost due to past negligence, and more will be if we don’t address our nation’s aging infrastructure. Proper planning and cost considerations at the front end of bridge construction will ultimately save taxpayer dollars, improve safety and extend the life of our nations bridges.