In our day and time, not much that we build lasts forever, and that is why we have a bridge inspection program. That is why we annually evaluate the condition, structure and structural integrity of bridges and their operational capacity and ability; and why, in the current law, SAFETEA-LU, with the help of then Chairman Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungImpeachment demonstrates dire need for term limits House approves pro-union labor bill House GOP introduces bill to secure voter registration systems against foreign hacking MORE (R-Alaska), I included language to authorize the funding of a new technology comparable to the technology used in aviation to determine the structural integrity of aircraft wings, movable surfaces and fuselage, to find hairline cracks using technology that can discover microscopic cracks not visible to the naked eye and then measure their propagation and do the same with bridges.

In March of 2004, I sent Members of the House a letter and information providing data developed, at my request, by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics showing the number and location of structurally deficient bridges in the national highway system in each Member's congressional district. The letter pointed out the number of structurally deficient bridges in each Member's district and then pointed out that, in 2002, the U.S. Department of Transportation found that 167,566 of the Nation's bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Since then, that number has grown: of the 597,340 bridges in the national bridge inventory, 26 percent are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

Then the cost to repair and bring to a good state of maintenance, the cost in 2004, was estimated at $9.4 billion a year to maintain. In the SAFETEA-LU legislation, we provided $4 billion a year. It should have been at $5 billion. If the original bill Mr. Young and I introduced in October of 2003 had prevailed, we'd have been at $5 billion a year. We are where we are.

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The estimate from the Minnesota Department of Transportation is in the range of $200 plus million, which may grow, depending on the bridge abutments on both sides of the river; the structural integrity of those facilities has yet to be fully evaluated.

So the $250 million is a soundly based estimate, based on engineering evaluations, and is a fair number, and so is the funding that we provide in the legislation to compensate the state for the shift from highway transportation to transit as occurred in California, in Oakland earlier this year in April when their bridge collapsed due to a tanker truck collapse.

Those are the basic figures. Those are the justifications. We've limited, capped the dollar amount for transit at $5 million in response to a question from the other body, and we have a well-supported figure of $250 million for the reconstruction out of general revenue funds.

Rep. Jim Oberstar is Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.