Thursday, Feb 22, 2018
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Bridge repair a logical step

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Bridge repairs are the logical beginning for a massive infrastructure investment plan.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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It has been a little more than 10 years since the I-35W bridge in downtown Minneapolis collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145 others.

The bridge over the Mississippi River was classified as “structurally deficient” by the U.S. Department of Transportation prior to its collapse. 

Logically, the deadly incident should have been enough to kick-start a vigorous infrastructure program in America, but it did not. In Ohio alone, the DOT said there are now nearly 2,000 bridges that are considered structurally deficient, and another 4,500 are “functionally obsolete.”

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It is unacceptable for citizens of a wealthy nation to be driving on potentially dangerous bridges, yet many of us still are.

The expected $1 trillion infrastructure proposal from President Trump is vital. But the $75 billion Bridge Investment Act, recently introduced in the Senate by Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), would be a good start.

The DOT estimates that the United States now has a $123 billion bridge repair backlog, including $30 billion in Ohio. Grants allowed through the Bridge Investment Act would complement state and local money to essentially wipe out the backlog of needed bridge repairs and allow for new structures.

Mr. Brown’s hope is that his bill will ultimately be part of a larger infrastructure bill that will provide even more money for roads and bridges.

“I’m hopeful that I can work with the President on this. I have offered to work with him,” Mr. Brown told The Blade’s editorial board.

In an interview with the New York Times late last year, President Trump stressed the importance of repairing the nation’s bridges:

 “We want to fix our roads, our highways, our bridges, which are in bad shape. And you know some of them are actually, they’re x-ed out, they have, you know, possibilities of collapse under bad circumstances. And in 10 years they will collapse. So, I want a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. I think it can be bipartisan,” the President told the Times.

The Bridge Investment Act includes another provision that should appeal to Mr. Trump: Bridge repairs and construction must use American-produced steel and iron.

Bridge repairs are the logical beginning for a massive infrastructure investment plan. Mr. Brown has given the President and Republicans a bipartisan path forward.

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