Whitehouse Unveils Bill to Repair, Replace Bridges and Promote American Jobs
Bill requires use of American-made iron, steel for bridge repairs
Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works; Sherrod Brown (D-OH), ranking member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee; and Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, today unveiled new legislation to repair and replace outdated bridges while creating jobs in Rhode Island and across the United States.
“In Rhode Island and around the country, we have thousands of important bridge projects ready to create jobs and boost the economy. Let’s fix them,” said Whitehouse. “Fixing our nation’s 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.”
The Senators’ respective committees represent key jurisdictions 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, the Bridge Investment Act, 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, and require all projects to use American-made steel and iron for bridge projects funded by the bill.
“Senator Whitehouse’s Bridge Investment Act would get more Rhode Islanders back to work by creating a new competitive grant program dedicated to fixing the backlog of bridges,” said Michael Sabitoni, President of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council. “I applaud Senator Whitehouse for his continuing commitment to invest in our state’s infrastructure and create good jobs that support Rhode Island families.”
While Rhode Island has made important progress toward reducing its number of deficient bridges, more federal investment would help further address the backlog of bridge repairs and create local construction jobs. The condition of Rhode Island’s bridges is among the worst in the nation, with about a quarter of the state’s bridges rated as structurally deficient. In addition, hundreds of other bridges did not meet current design standards. Nationwide, the U.S. has approximately 56,000 structurally-deficient bridges. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates a $123 billion national bridge repair backlog.
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 eliminate 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 Building Trades Union, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, and the Associated General Contractors of America have announced support for the bill.
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