NATIONAL HIGHWAY BRIDGE RECONSTRUCTION AND INSPECTION ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - July 23, 2008)
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Mr. HOLT. Madam Chairman, I rise today in support of H.R. 3999, the National Bridge Construction Act.
When the National Highway System was created in 1955, President Eisenhower said ``Our unity as a nation is sustained by the free communication of thought and by the easy transportation of goods ..... [T]ogether the unifying forces of our communication and transportation systems are dynamic elements in the very name we bear-United States.''
However, since the creation of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s, the Federal Government has failed to fulfill its commitment to maintain our Nation's infrastructure. Conditions on America's surface transportation systems--our roads, bridges and highways, our passenger and freight rail facilities, our public transit networks--are deteriorating. The physical infrastructure itself is showing the signs of age. In almost all cases, the operational efficiency of our key transportation assets is slipping.
The catastrophic collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minnesota last year was a reminder that a lack of funding for proper maintenance of our bridges and roadways is more than an inconvenience, it can be deadly. The legislation before us today would provide a short term solution to this problem by increasing funding for bridge construction over the next fiscal year by $1 billion. H.R. 3999 would also require the Department of Transportation to create a better system for inspecting our bridges so they can ensure their safety. It would also ensure that the bridges most in need of repairs are given the funding necessary for safety retrofits.
In my home State of New Jersey there are over 6,000 bridges, nearly a third of which the Department of Transportation has determined either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, including 12 in my central New Jersey district. This legislation would provide the State of New Jersey with over $42 million in
much needed grants for rebuilding these bridges, and I urge my colleagues to support it.
Unfortunately, this funding is little more than a drop in the bucket when considering our long term transportation needs. Our transportation programs are drastically underfunded and require immediate attention in order to be corrected. Today the House of Representatives will consider emergency legislation that would authorize the transfer of $8 billion to the highway trust fund which is expected to experience a $14 billion shortfall in Fiscal Year 2009. However, this is still not enough.
When we passed the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy For Users (SAFETEA-LU) back in 2005, we authorized the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission to undertake a thorough review of the state of our national transportation system. This study found that we would need to invest $225 billion annually over the next 50 years in order to ensure that our transportation infrastructure is in a good state of repair. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address our pressing transportation needs.
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