WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), ranking member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today unveiled new legislation to repair and replace outdated bridges. The Senators’ respective Committees represent key Committees in developing an infrastructure package. President Trump has called for $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, and in a recent New York Times interview noted that the nation’s bridges are in bad shape. The Senators’ bill calls for significant investment in bridge repair projects, which are not currently prioritized under existing federal highway grant programs. The bill would help repair bridges of all sizes in urban and rural areas, and require all projects to use American-made steel and iron for bridge projects funded by the bill.
“Rebuilding bridges across the U.S. will create new jobs and make the country more competitive,” said Brown. “Ohio alone has more than 6,000 bridges that need structural repairs or other updates to make them safer and reduce congestion. But states and cities can’t do it alone – they need real investment to help fix these outdated bridges that clog up our roads and leave drivers at greater risk of an accident.”
“Reliable bridges are critical to Oregonians’ safety and for local Oregon businesses to successfully transport world-renowned agriculture products, athletic apparel, manufactured goods and so much more,” said Wyden. “Over half of the bridges in our state were built more than half a century ago. Investing and repairing this aging infrastructure is key to maintaining our Oregon way of life.”
“In Rhode Island and around the country, we have thousands of important bridge projects ready to create jobs and boost the economy. Let’s do them,” said Whitehouse. “Fixing our nations bridges will pay off big for American workers and the American economy. If the President and Republicans in Congress are serious about jobs and improving our infrastructure, they’ll join us to pass this bill.”
Right now, the U.S. has approximately 56,000 so-called “structurally-deficient” bridges, or those that need significant repair. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates a $123 billion bridge repair backlog nationally, including $17 billion in needed improvements to rural and local bridges off the federal-aid highway network. Bridge projects of all sizes often require a significant funding source, yet there is no federal program dedicated to funding bridge repair projects. The Senators’ bill aims to support bridge projects by creating a competitive grant program that invests $75 billion over 10 years in bridge repair projects. These funds would help leverage additional investment from state and local entities.
The Bridge Investment Act would also:
- Promote American jobs by requiring use of American-made steel and iron in projects funded under the bill.
- Ensure that a bipartisan infrastructure package could address the national bridge repair backlog, if the new bill is added to such a package.
- Create an innovative evaluation process for proposed projects to ensure the fair and efficient allocation of federal funding.
- Bundle medium and small projects into a single application to cut down on red tape and accelerate repairs.
- Allow entities of all sizes and scope to apply for funding, including: states, counties, cities, metropolitan planning organizations, special purpose districts, public authorities with transportation functions, federal land management agencies and Indian tribes.
The American Society of Civil Engineers, the International Union of Operating Engineers, National League of Cities, North America’s Building Trades Union, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and the Associated General Contractors of America have announced their support for the bill.
A one-pager on the bill is available here.