Today Congresswoman Lois Capps (CA-23), Congressman Glenn "GT" Thompson (PA-5), and Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-1) led a bipartisan letter to the House-Senate Transportation Bill Conference Committee to request that it adopt minimum funding levels for bridges not on Federal-aid highways in the final surface transportation reauthorization bill.
Off-system bridges are bridges that are not on a Federal-aid highway but that are owned and operated by local governments. Since 1978, the Highway Bridge Program (HBP) has required states to spend, or set aside, at least 15 percent of their annual apportioned bridge funding for off-system bridges. Over the last few years, Santa Barbara County has used $10 million in federal funds from the Highway Bridge Program to replace local bridges, including the Fernald Point, Kinevan Road, and Black Road bridges (project descriptions below). In Santa Barbara County, there are 110 off-system bridges that are eligible for federal funding under the Highway Bridge Program. Today, the County has over $25 million in replacement bridges planned.
We know that many critical repairs to local bridges will not happen without federal assistance. That's why I've made it a priority to preserve funding for local bridges in the final Transportation bill and assure that our counties and local transportation agencies can maintain vital routes throughout the Central Coast in a safe and serviceable condition," said Capps.
Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors Chair Doreen Farr added, "We want to thank Congresswoman Capps for her continued leadership on this issue. The County's off-system bridges are the backbone of our local Transportation System. Losing the ability to continue receiving Highway Bridge Program funding for these structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges would be financially devastating to our community. Maintaining this program is one of our key issues in the highway bill."
Congresswoman Capps has been a real leader on this issue," said Jim Kemp, SBCAG's Executive Director. "This program is all about maintaining a safe and efficient transportation system to support our economy. Most of the cities and the county have used this program to repair bridges in local communities and rely on this partnership with the federal government to protect critical infrastructure."
The Senate passed transportation bill, S. 1813, preserves the off-system bridge set-aside requirement, but the House version, H.R. 4348, does not address the issue. Earlier this year Capps was prepared to offer an amendment to the House version of the transportation bill on this issue, but that bill was not considered by the full House. This letter, which was signed by 42 bipartisan members of Congress and has the support of numerous state and local transportation groups, requests the members of the conference committee to retain the language included in S. 1813.
Recent examples of Santa Barbara County Bridge projects that would not have been built or replaced and those in the bridge design phase that would not happen without Highway Bridge Program federal funds are:
Fernald Point Bridge Replacement: This bridge has a deteriorating deck that will not support traffic loads soon if not replaced. A replacement project is currently being designed; construction costs are estimated to be approximately $1.2 million.
Foothill Low Water Crossing Replacement (Cuyama): Without this bridge, traffic, including emergency services must travel approximately 15 miles to get around the river when it is flowing. A replacement project is currently being designed; construction costs are estimated to be approximately $15 million.
Goleta Beach Access Bridge: This Bridge has reactive aggregate piles and is rapidly losing its structural support. If it is not replaced, the single beach access point will be cut off for the approximately 2 million people who visit the beach each year. A replacement project is currently being designed; construction costs are estimated to be approximately $3.3 million.
Kinevan Road Bridge: Serves the residents of the mountainous area off State Route 154. This bridge has already lost structural support to a degree that loads are limited on the bridge. If this bridge is not replaced and becomes unusable, emergency services and one of the escape routes for this fire-prone area will be cut off. A replacement project is currently being designed; construction costs are estimated to be approximately $1.2 million.
Jonata Park Bridge: This structure is the only access route to homes and businesses on the north end of Buellton. A replacement project is currently being designed; construction costs are estimated to be approximately $2.7 million.
Black Road Bridge: Connects the Tanglewood neighborhoods with Highway 1 and the nearest commercial area of Old Town Orcutt. It also serves as a point of access to the Laguna Sanitation wastewater treatment plant. A replacement bridge is currently being designed; construction costs are estimated to be approximately $3.3 million.
Tepusquet Bridge: Connects the entire Tepusquet Canyon Community to Foxen Canyon, a primary roadway system across the valley. It links wineries and hundreds of homes directly and eliminates what was previously a twelve mile detour around the site. $7 million was allocated for this bridge and it would not have been built without the HBP program for off-system bridges.