Instead of Rushing Home for August Recess, Congress Should Invest in Aging Bridges

WASHINGTON, D.C. – September 6, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, today urged his colleagues to take up and pass the SAFE Bridges Act, a bill he introduced with Reps. Nick Rahall, W.Va-03, and Peter DeFazio, Ore.-04. The House of Representatives will recess Friday for five weeks without passing any legislation to invest in our transportation infrastructure.

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support Ranking Member Slaughter’s motion to call up the SAFE Bridges Act.

In May, a portion of a bridge on Interstate 5 in my district collapsed into the Skagit River.

Like most of my constituents, I have driven over that bridge hundreds of times.

The fact that no one died when it collapsed was a blessing.

But you know, not everyone has been so lucky.

My colleagues will remember in 2007 when a bridge spanning the Mississippi River in Minneapolis crashed down during rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring 145.

So today I want to ask my colleagues a simple question: should not Americans be able to drive across a highway bridge with the reasonable expectation that it will not crumble away from underneath them?

Sixty-seven thousand bridges in our country are rated structurally deficient.

Sixty-seven thousand bridges.

When those bridges fall, it isn’t just the unlucky few on those bridges who suffer.

Whole economies that rely on safe and efficient transportation suffer.

The I-5 bridge across the Skagit River just doesn’t connect Burlington and Mount Vernon.

It connects the entire West Coast and carries millions of dollars’ worth of trade between Canada and the U.S.

But here’s the good news: We know how to build safe bridges.

There are thousands of civil engineers devoting their lives today to building good structures that don’t fall down.

But we need to pay for them. We need to maintain them. Maintain them until they are old, and replace them when we need to.

We can’t wait for them to crumble into the water below.

In light of this obvious need, how much has this Congress has done to improve bridge safety or invest in infrastructure?

[Pause]

Mr. Speaker that is the sound of how much Congressional action has been taken.

Nothing.

Just yesterday, House leadership pulled the transportation appropriations bill because they couldn’t find enough Republicans to support its draconian cuts.

Instead of rushing home, we should take up the SAFE Bridges Act introduced by Mr. Rahall to immediately invest in bridges.

And rather than repealing Obamacare for the 40th time this Congress, we should invest in our infrastructure for the first time.

If you think your constituents should be able to drive over a bridge without wondering whether it will crumble beneath them, then this Congress must act on robust transportation funding.

With that I ask unanimous consent to include a state-by-state funding table under the SAFE Bridges Act in the record.

I yield back

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