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Infrastructure windfall may not prevent future bridge collapses

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Infrastructure windfall may not prevent future bridge collapses

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Biden, who was already scheduled to travel to Pittsburgh when the bridge fell, used Friday’s collapse to stress the need to fund repairs. The fact that no one was killed or seriously injured gave Democrats freedom to talk politics while the scene was still being cleaned up.

“Next time, we don’t need headlines saying someone was killed in a bridge collapse. When a bridge is in poor condition, it can threaten lives,” Biden said. during his speech in Pittsburgh.

Speaking about the new law, he said: “We finally got it, a bipartisan bridge infrastructure law in our country. This is the first time in the history of the country that we are dedicating a national agenda to the repair and modernization of bridges.”

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), who represents the area where the collapse occurred, called the collapse a “tragic example of why the infrastructure bill Congress just passed is needed. We should systematically invest MORE in our infrastructure so that our bridges and other public works don’t reach this point of disrepair .”

In fiscal year 2019 alone, Pennsylvania received $1.77 billion in federal funding for transportation needs. The state is should receive an additional 4 billion dollars of the infrastructure law that Congress enacted last year.

But that money includes a few conditions that would require states to fix their existing transportation projects, rather than building new ones. Congress also chose not to change how these funds are distributed to states, allowing them to spend according to their own priorities.

“Just giving states more money doesn’t guarantee it will be well spent, including on system repairs,” said Kevin DeGood, director of infrastructure policy at the Center for American Progress. “Washington must hold states accountable for their investment decisions.”

Biden has repeatedly said he prefers a “fix first” approach, and in fact, the infrastructure bill House Democrats originally produced included those principles — like requiring states that want to expand their highways they first show that they have kept their infrastructure maintained. But that goal fell out of the bill the moment Biden finally signed it.

Matt Casale, who oversees PIRG’s campaigns on toxics, transportation and zero waste, said the biggest lesson to be learned from the collapse from a federal policy perspective is that existing bridges must first repaired before new projects are funded.

“While we’ve spent billions of dollars building new road infrastructure, this bridge, like too many across the United States, has been in disrepair for far too long,” Casale said. He said the new law “gives us the opportunity to correct that trajectory and finally build a safer transportation system for all Americans.”

Earlier this month, the Biden administration rolled out its bridge repair and replacement program in Philadelphia, where a major bridge was closed to traffic last year after an inspection showed a connection critical steel was 75% deteriorated.

The program will send nearly $27.5 billion per formula in the largest investment dedicated to bridges in the United States since the construction of the interstate highway system.

“We will rebuild this bridge along with thousands of other bridges in Pennsylvania and across the country,” Biden said Friday. “It’s part of how we’re going to build a better America.”

Infrastructure windfall may not prevent future bridge collapses

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