Congressional interest in fixing bridges rose after the 2007 collapse in Minneapolis, but efforts to add billions of extra federal dollars specifically for repair and replacement of deficient and obsolete bridges foundered. A sweeping transportation law enacted last year eliminated a dedicated bridge fund that had been around for more than three decades. State transportation officials had complained the fund's requirements were too restrictive. Now, bridge repairs or replacements must compete with other types of highway projects for federal aid.
The new law requires states to beef up bridge inspection standards and qualifications for bridge inspectors. However, federal regulators are still drafting the new standards.
"Do we have the funding to replace 18,000 fracture critical bridges right now?" Rehm asked. "No. Would we like to? Of course."
Baker reported from Seattle. Interactive Newsroom Technology Editor Troy Thibodeaux in New Orleans contributed data analysis.
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