With an eye toward immediate, bipartisan action on a funding plan potentially based on a temporary additional five-cent federal motor fuel tax, U.S. House
With an eye toward immediate, bipartisan action on a funding plan potentially based on a temporary additional five-cent federal motor fuel tax, U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) held a full committee hearing to consider testimony on structurally deficient bridges within the National Highway System (NHS). Assembled just after Labor Day, the Capitol Hill session followed the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, an event that has called attention to a total of 6,175 bridges deemed structurally deficient by the Federal Highway Administration among 116,172 National Highway System crossings.
Oberstar’s recently proposed NHS Bridge Reconstruction Initiative includes the temporary federal gas tax to seed a bridge reconstruction trust fund; tougher federal standards for bridge inspections; and, a new formula, to be developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, for distributing the envisioned additional bridge aid among states. The initiative would also prohibit Congress, plus federal and state agencies, from setting aside the new bridge money by earmarking for individual projects. Generally, panelists at the hearing emphasized the importance of more and better-allocated funding for bridge repair, rehabilitation, and replacement. Panelists also cited outdated or insufficient standards in bridge inspection methods.
Speaking for the Bush administration, U.S. DOT Secretary Mary Peters noted, It makes no sense to my mind to raise the gas tax at a time when we are rightfully exploring every conceivable mechanism to increase energy independence and clean our air, promote fuel economy in automobiles and stimulate the development of alternative fuels as well as reducing emissions.
Representatives of the North American Concrete Alliance, along with other representatives from Transportation Construction Coalition member organizations, met with Rep. Oberstar to gain additional insight on the initiative. While bridge construction and rehabilitation are outside the activities of some members, TCC members unanimously agreed to support the NHS Bridge Reconstruction Initiative. A second hearing later this month is being arranged by (House) Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR). Û North American Concrete Alliance, Washington, D.C.