This vote was on an amendment by Patty Murray, D-Wash., that would add $1 billion in funding to the underlying bill, to repair aging bridges. The amendment was offered to the measure that funds transportation and housing programs in fiscal 2008.
Murray’s amendment was a direct response to the rush-hour collapse of an Interstate highway bridge in Minnesota. The collapse, which occurred in August, killed 13 people and injured more than 140. Though the exact cause of the collapse remains unknown, it brought renewed attention to the deteriorating condition of America’s highway infrastructure.
Murray said 27 percent of the nation’s 600,000 bridges are classified as inadequate or worse.
“We have built a national highway system that is the envy of the world. But it is now no secret that our Government has failed to adequately fund the maintenance needs of that system. Increasing traffic has put added stress on a system that simply was not designed for it. As a result, our bridges are deteriorating far faster than we can finance their replacement. This is why more than one in every four bridges on U.S. highways is rated as deficient,” Murray said. “This amendment is a very measured response to a very big problem. I know our States need even greater resources to address their bridge repair needs, but my amendment will allow for an historic increase in Federal bridge funding—a boost of 25 percent. And it will do so while working within the constraints of our budget resolution.”
Kit Bond, R-Mo., said that while Congress must act to prevent a similar tragedy, lawmakers must also be careful of shortchanging other infrastructure needs funded under the bill. He said the gasoline tax that funds the country’s infrastructure spending is already strained, and that adding an additional $1 billion onto the total would exacerbate the situation.
Bond said more deaths occur as a result of fatalities on the highways than do on bridges. “This leads me to suggest that we cannot overreact to such a horrible and tragic event such as that in Minnesota by micromanaging our Federal aid dollars solely to bridges, unless that is where a State, through its unique local vantage point and knowledge of its situation, wants to focus its efforts in Federal apportionment.”
The Senate adopted the amendment by a vote of 60-33. All Democrats present voted for the amendment. Of Republicans present, 33 voted against the amendment, and 13 voted for it. The end result was that the measure went forward with an additional $1 billion in funding for repairing aging bridges nationwide.