Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation discusses infrastructure investment at bridge collapse hearing

| June 18, 2013

Senator Murray speaks about U.S. infrastructure at Thursday's bridge collapse hearing.

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) speaks about U.S. infrastructure at Thursday’s bridge collapse hearing.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies met Thursday for a hearing, where the committee examined the Interstate 5 bridge collapse in the context of the overall status of the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

AASHTO Journal reported that Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) chaired the hearing, “Crumbling Infrastructure: Examining the Challenges of our Outdated and Overburdened Highways and Bridges.”

Testimonies included those from Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez, U.S. Department of Transportation Under Secretary for Policy Polly Trottenberg and U.S. Government Accountability Office Physical Infrastructure Issues Director Phillip Herr.

Murray discussed how the I-5 bridge collapse affected the community, and she pointed to a local need for infrastructure investment.

“Unfortunately, this is the kind of disaster we can expect to happen more often when our roads and bridges fall into disrepair,” Murray said. “It certainly should be a wakeup call that we need to invest in, repair and rebuild our aging roads, bridges, and highways.”

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the subcommittee’s ranking member, looked at funding for infrastructure investment. Collins cited the Federal Highway Administration , which estimates a $100 billion to maintain highway infrastructure for the next 15 years and a $170 billion annual investment to continue to improve and “meet future demands.”

“This will prove extremely difficult,” Collins said, “given that the revenues collected for the Highway Trust Fund already do not support the current level of federal spending.”

Collins added that previous proposals to use war savings for transportation funding might be impractical.

Trottenberg agreed with Murray on the need for infrastructure investment. Trottenberg said she has seen progress made with improvements to the transportation system in the United States.

“Despite increased use, the condition of our nation’s highways and bridges has improved overall in recent years, as a result of new technology and techniques used in the design and construction of projects, as well as condition monitoring,”Trottenberg said.

Mendez assured the hearing’s attendees that the FHWA and state transportation departments are working to keep roadways safe.

“I can assure you that if we identify a bridge that is unsafe, we will take immediate action at the state level, whether we restrict it or close it,” Mendez said.

Herr testified that 25 percent of bridges on U.S. roadways were classified as deficient in 2012.

The full webcast is available for viewing at appropriations.senate.gov.

The I-5 bridge that collapsed last month is expected to reopen sometime this week.

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