Foxx: Delaware bridge closure affects entire east coast

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Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Monday that the closing of a heavily-traveled Delaware interstate bridge that has a dangerous construction flaw is impacting the entire east coast.  

Foxx said the closing of the bridge, which carries Delaware’s Interstate 495 across the state’s Christina River, would make “freight—and people traveling through the mid-Atlantic region on I-95…likely to encounter significant delays” throughout the summer.

“The I-495 bridge over the Christina River in Wilmington, Delaware, is tilting. If you’re reading this in Miami or in Maine, you may think that’s too bad for folks in Wilmington, and you may wish the Delaware DOT all the best in fixing it. But it affects you, too,” Foxx wrote in a blog post on the Department of Transportation’s website.

Foxx said the shuttered Delaware bridge was a major artery for freight and passenger traffic in the northeastern United States.

“Because for trucks and cars heading to and from Philadelphia and other points, I-495 provides a key route around downtown Wilmington on the already-congested I-95, the east coast’s primary north-south Interstate,” he said. “It also provides access to and from the Port of Wilmington.”

Foxx visited the Delaware I-495 bridge, which carries approximately 90,000 vehicles per day, last week as he pushes lawmakers to approve a new round of transportation funding,

Delaware officials have said that bridge will likely be closed until Labor Day.

Foxx said the Obama administration was helping Delaware pay for repairs to the bridge, but he said it would be easier if Congress approved a new round of transportation funding. 

“The good news is that we have already begun helping DelDOT by providing $2 million in emergency funding to get started. And our team at the Federal Highway Administration is standing ready to help,” he said. 

“But America has much more infrastructure that needs to be repaired –and much more infrastructure that needs to be built– than we have dollars available,” Foxx continued. “What we have instead is a Highway Trust Fund that could run out of money in the next two months. Unless Congress acts.”

The current federal transportation funding bill is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30.

Lawmakers are scrambling to find a way to close a shortfall in transportation funding that is estimated to be as high as $15 billion before the Department of Transportation runs out of money for its Highway Trust Fund, which has been predicted to occur as August without congressional action.

The traditional source for transportation funding is revenue that is collected by the federal gas tax, which is currently 18.4 cents per gallon. The tax only brings is about $34 billion per year, however, and the current level of transportation spending infrastructure advocates want lawmakers to maintain is about $50 billion annually.

The closing of the bridge across the Christina River made national headlines amid the funding standoff.

Foxx and President Obama has recommended that lawmakers use approximately $150 billion from closing corporate tax loopholes to help pay for a new four-year, $302 billion transportation bill.

The corporate tax reform proposal is considered unlikely to be approved and lawmakers in both chambers have begun exploring other funding options, however.

Transportation advocates have pushed Transportation Congress to increase the gas tax for the first time in two decades to close the gap, but most lawmakers have been reluctant to raise taxes in the middle of an election year.

Additionally, a more recent proposal from Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) calls for replacing the gas tax with a “barrel tax” on oil suppliers.

Tags Anthony Foxx gas Highway Trust Fund Interstate 495 Interstate Highway System Tax Transportation Funding shortfall
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