As the nation marks the 80th anniversary of the Public Works Administration, Building America’s Future co-chair and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell endorsed new legislation to address the nation’s backlog of deficient bridges.
Standing with Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), Rendell urged Congress to pass the Strengthen and Fortify Existing Bridges Act (SAFE Bridges Act) in order to modernize and rebuild many of the nation’s worst bridges.
The SAFE Bridges Act, sponsored by Reps. Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR), authorizes $5.5 billion over the next two years to fix the nation’s deficient and functionally obsolete bridges. Currently, Pennsylvania ranks first nationally in the number of structurally deficient bridges.
“I can think of no better time than the 80th anniversary of Public Works Administration to talk about the critical need for a national, long term infrastructure plan,” said Gov. Rendell. “Like my home state of Pennsylvania, states all over the country are grappling with too many deficient bridges. Twenty-nine percent of America’s bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Every day Americans take more than 260 million trips over deficient bridges.”
“I thank Governor Rendell for his steadfast commitment to American infrastructure and for his support of the SAFE Bridges Act,” said Rahall. “The benefits that we enjoy from infrastructure investments are immediate, and as we can see from contributions of the Public Works Administration some eight decades later, those benefits are lasting. Repairs to our aging bridges are long overdue and I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Rendell to build support for this legislation.”
The funding provided in the bill is in addition to states’ federal-aid highway funding and would be distributed through a needs-based formula. Based on each state’s relative share of the total cost to repair or replace highway bridges, New York ($683.4 million), Pennsylvania ($500.5 million), California ($464.1 million), New Jersey ($274.9 million), and Massachusetts ($274.6 million) would receive the most funding.
However, there is a cost to inaction. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) reports that if the U.S. fails to invest in our nation’s vital transportation systems by 2020, then businesses would pay an extra $430 billion in transportation costs, household incomes would fall by $7,000, and US exports would fall by $28 billion.
“President Roosevelt understood that infrastructure is the lifeblood of the economy. By creating the Public Works Administration, President Roosevelt set in motion the construction of over 34,000 large scale public works projects such as dams, bridges, hospitals, and schools. ” said Gov. Rendell.
“In 2005, the World Economic Forum ranked U.S. infrastructure number one for economic competitiveness. In 2012, the nation slipped to 14th,” said Gov. Rendell. “We need to re-capture that American can-do spirit and start building big things again. If we don’t, we will continue to fall behind our economic competitors.”
The SAFE Bridges Act currently has 24 cosponsors. Other organizations that endorsed the bill include: The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), AFL-CIO, United Steelworkers, National Construction Alliance II, Transportation for America, American Highway Users Alliance, and the National Steel Bridge Association.