Be forewarned: If you have to drive over a bridge today, you may feel a bit nervous after reading this post. As Think Progress points out, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics says that about 12 percent of the nation’s bridges are “structurally deficient.” This is the exact same rating the Bureau gave to the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed in 2007, causing the deaths of 13 people. In addition, 12 percent more of the US’s bridges are “functionally obsolete.”
Furthermore, “in four of the five states represented by Republican congressional leadership, the rate of structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges outpaces the national average” — a figure that is not surprising if you consider that Republicans have continued to insist on bigger tax cuts, rather than on increases in infrastructure spending.
Last Thursday, President Obama called on Congress to invest in improving the nation’s infrastructure, both to stimulate the economy and, frankly, to fix our crumbling bridges and highways before it’s too late. Studies have said that the US needs a $2 trillion investment “just to bring its infrastructure up to date.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called Obama’s proposal a “a re-election plan.” The next day, September 9, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels shut down the Sherman Minton Bridge, which is one of three major bridges that spans the Ohio River between Louisville, Kentucky and southern Indiana. The bridge, which carries some 50,000 people a day, had already been listed as “deficient”; last week, cracks were discovered in a major load-bearing part of the span. With the bridge closed, “much of its regular daily traffic will be re-routed over another bridge that was already slated to be inspected for structural damage Monday.”
34 percent of bridges in Kentucky are considered “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete.” Think Progress lists four other states with high percentages of “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete” bridges: 27 percent in Ohio, home state of Speaker John Boehner; 26 percent in House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Virginia; 12 percent in Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl’s Arizona; an alarming 30 percent in House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s California.
Back February of 2010, Republicans in the Senate stopped a bill aimed at infrastructure improvement which House Democrats had passed. You’d think after the Minneapolis bridge collapsed in 2007, someone would take the labeling of a bridge as “structurally deficient” seriously and try to avert a tragedy and the avoidable loss of life before such could happen again.
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Photo of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis one month after it collapsed by pmarkham