Bridge Repairs

Citing deteriorating conditions of aging bridges in Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders at a Senate hearing today called for a renewed commitment to rebuild crumbling bridges (video here). "We need to substantially increase funding for our states and local government to make the necessary repairs because bridges all over rural America are collapsing and states don't have the money to repair them," Sanders said.? Ve

Citing deteriorating conditions of aging bridges in Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders at a Senate hearing today called for a renewed commitment to rebuild crumbling bridges. "We need to substantially increase funding for our states and local government to make the necessary repairs because bridges all over rural America are collapsing and states don't have the money to repair them," Sanders said. Vermont bridges built after a devastating 1927 flood are "nearing the end of their useful design life," according to the Vermont Agency on Transportation, and spans built during the Interstate construction boom four decades ago are "in need of significant repairs."

Vermont transportation officials recently shut down the main bridge over the Winooski River in Richmond because of deteriorating steel in the span that connects the town to Interstate 89. In June, the state closed another 80-year-old steel truss bridge along Route 2 in Middlesex after engineers raised safety concerns.

Criticizing "double talk" from a U.S. Transportation Department official who testified at the hearing, Sanders said the Bush administration should have made repairing the nation's infrastructure a high priority.

The full Senate, meanwhile, approved legislation to transfer $8 billion to the Highway Trust Fund that will be broke by the end of this month because Americans are driving less due to of high gasoline prices.

Nationwide, half of all bridges in this country were built before 1964, and the average age of a bridge is 43 years old. More than one-quarter of the 600,000 bridges nationwide are considered deficient.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average annual cost to eliminate the repair backlog and fix other problems that are expected to develop between now and 2024 would be $12.4 billion a year. Total capital spending on bridges by all units of government in 2004 (the latest available figures) was $10.5 billion.

To watch video of the hearing, click here.

To read The Associated Press article on fhe passage of the Highway Trust Fund bill, click here.