Nearly six years ago, the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River. Yesterday, I toured the new I-35W crossing--which was rebuilt in little over a year and has become a symbol of what we can achieve when we commit ourselves and work together to meet the challenges facing America's roadways.
By collaborating at the local, state, and federal levels, transportation officials were able to complete the new I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge more than three months ahead of schedule. So, no one appreciates the value of a strong commitment and an effective partnership more than U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, who hosted my visit.
Our nation has grown faster than the capacity of our roadways. Across the country, commuters rushing to work, students heading to class, and moms and dads taking their kids to camps, schools, and day-care centers regularly drive over bridges that are carrying loads far beyond their intended capacity and far beyond their intended lifespan.
Every day, DOT works hard to ensure our bridges are safe. Through our National Bridge Inspection Program, the Federal Highway Administration works with State DOTs to detect bridge issues early and to develop solutions. Under our program, states are required to inspect bridges every two years and report the results to FHWA. Thousands of qualified inspectors evaluate the condition and safety of our nation's bridges every day.
If a bridge is deemed unsafe, action is taken. Whether that means closing the bridge, making emergency repairs or instituting weight restrictions, we do what's necessary to keep people safe.
For generations, Americans have climbed into their cars and trucks and never questioned their safety or whether the roads or bridges they rely on will be there when they need them. They trust that our system will work--and work safely. They trust DOT to keep them safe--and we will.
But to fulfill this commitment to safety for the next generation, we need to come together to invest in critical transportation projects across the country--projects that not only keep our roads and bridges safe, but also keep our economy moving forward.
President Obama's Fix It First proposal would immediately invest $50 billion in our nation's transportation infrastructure, with $40 billion targeting the most urgent upgrades and focused on fixing the highways, bridges, transit systems, and airports most in need of repair.
As a nation, we need to come together--just as we did six years ago in Minneapolis--and make the investments that will keep our infrastructure strong. Because a stronger transportation system means a stronger America for the 21st century.