In the wake of the recent Interstate highway bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.) proposed a comprehensive program to repair the nation's structurally deficient bridges.
Oberstar, who chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, announced the plan Wednesday after visiting the site of the bridge.
"Today, as the recovery effort continues, we ask ourselves if such a tragic failure can happen elsewhere," said Oberstar.
The Congressman pointed out that there are 73,784 bridges in the country rated "structurally deficient" by the U.S. Department of Transportation. He said a major reason why these bridges are not repaired, rehabilitated, or replaced can be attributed to the "tombstone mentality" in the Federal Government and in the States. Oberstar's initiative has four main components:
Significantly improve bridge inspection requirements.
Provide dedicated funding.
Distribute funds based on public safety and need (It prohibits Congressional and Administration earmarks).
Establish a trust fund, modeled after the Highway Trust Fund, to provide a dedicated source of revenue for the repair, rehabilitation and replacement of structurally deficient bridges. Revenues deposited in this trust fund will be available for no other purpose. Oberstar said addressing this issue will be the first order of business for his committee when Congress returns in September.