January 04, 2018

Wyden Unveils Bill to Repair, Replace Bridges Across America, Promote U.S. Jobs

Legislation would require use of American-Made Iron, Steel for Bridge Repairs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today unveiled new legislation to repair and replace outdated bridges, and require all bridge projects funded by the bill to use American-made steel and iron.

“Reliable bridges are critical to Oregonians’ safety and for local Oregon businesses to successfully transport world-renowned agriculture products, athletic apparel, manufactured goods and so much more, ” Wyden said. “Over half of the bridges in our state were built more than half a century ago. Investing and repairing this aging infrastructure is key to maintaining our Oregon way of life.”

As ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Wyden is on a key committee with jurisdiction over infrastructure. The new bill also is sponsored by senators on two other committees essential to developing an infrastructure package -- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), ranking member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee; and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The White House has called for $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, and in a recent New York Times interview the president noted that the nation’s bridges are in bad shape. The senators’ bill calls for significant investment in bridge repair projects, which are not currently prioritized under existing federal highway grant programs.

The United States has more than 55,000 so-called “structurally-deficient” bridges, or those that need significant repair. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates a $123 billion bridge repair backlog nationally, including $17 billion in needed improvements to rural and local bridges off the federal-aid highway network. Bridge projects of all sizes often require a significant funding source, yet there is no federal program dedicated to funding bridge repair projects. The senators’ bill aims to support bridge projects by creating a competitive grant program that invests $75 billion over 10 years in bridge repair projects. These funds would help leverage additional investment from state and local entities. 

The Bridge Investment Act would also:

  • Promote American jobs by requiring use of American-made steel and iron in projects funded under the bill.
  • Ensure that a bipartisan infrastructure package could eliminate the national bridge repair backlog, if the new bill is added to such a package.
  • Create an innovative evaluation process for proposed projects to ensure the fair and efficient allocation of federal funding. 
  • Bundle medium and small projects into a single application to cut down on red tape and accelerate repairs.
  • Allow entities of all sizes and scope to apply for funding, including: states, counties, cities, metropolitan planning organizations, special purpose districts, public authorities with transportation functions, federal land management agencies and Indian tribes.

The American Society of Civil Engineers, the International Union of Operating Engineers, National League of Cities, North America Building Trades Union, and the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, have endorsed the bill.