Senator James Inhofe
Congressional Record: 114th Congress
July 22, 2015
Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, in a moment I am going to be going over and concentrating on some of the things that are in this bill, just concentrating on bridges, something people are not as aware of as they should be. Now what I am talking about is that sometime today we are going to be repeating the vote that we had yesterday, except this time we should be able to get it adopted.
I don't criticize any of the Democrats who voted against the motion to proceed to the highway bill yesterday because they did not get information in a timely fashion. It was our fault that they did not get the information until about 30 minutes before the vote. I understand that. Now they have had 24 hours to look it over. I think they will be pleased to support the long-term highway bill. So I was not one who complained about that.
That vote will take place today. That is to get us to the bill, so we can start on amendments. I am going to ask as many of our Members to bring down amendments, if they have amendments, so we can get them in the queue to discuss. There are three committees involved. The very largest piece of the bill is the Environment and Public Works Committee, which is the committee that I chair.
When I say the vast majority of that, what I am talking about is 80 percent of the bill. So that has been available for inspection by the public, by the Democrats, the Republicans, by all of the Members ever since June 24. June 24 is when we passed this bill out of the committee by a unanimous vote. Every Democrat, every Republican on the committee voted for it.
Now, there are some people, I suppose, who are going to be playing politics with this bill on this vote. They have to realize this is an issue that needs to be addressed. I would say this, there are two things that were voiced as objections. Some voted no because they did not get everything they wanted in the bill. Some of them thought they would be able to get a better deal.
Let me just address that. The bill is too important to play politics with. If we wait until we have more time, then we are going to be in trouble and miss the construction season. The problem with this is, particularly those Northern States will miss an entire construction season if we do the alternative. What is the alternative? The alternative is to go back; instead of a 6-year-funded reauthorization bill, go back to short-term extensions. Short-term extensions are an ineffective use of highway dollars. Short-term extensions are not the conservative position but they also would miss an entire construction season. I understand that the House is talking about trying to do an extension to the end of the year. If they do that, then States like Pennsylvania--that is where Congressman Shuster is from--will miss an entire construction season. So I think that is critical.
If you talk to any Governor, any mayor, and any State department of transportation about the urgency of the timing of this bill, they will tell you that if we miss this opportunity to authorize a 6-year bill, with 3 years of identified funding this summer, we will miss the 2016 construction season. So the strongest supporters of this bill are the officials closer to the people at home--the mayors, the Governors, the State departments of transportation. So that is what we are going to be faced with.
To address the second point and objection, I have been approached by many Members on both sides of the aisle who have said they are planning to vote no today because their program did not get enough funding for Amtrak or bike trails or sidewalks or something else in this bill. We did not go far enough toward their project.
Well, look, I am in the same situation. This will be my sixth highway bill that I have actually authorized. Three of those I was the primary sponsor. I can tell you these bills are about compromise. Not everybody gets exactly what they want. I assure you I did not get everything I wanted in our unanimous EPW markup with Senator Boxer. Now, keep in mind, Senator Boxer is a very proud liberal, I am a very proud conservative. Yet we agreed wholeheartedly on this. We led the fight to come out with a unanimous bill.
The House is watching us very closely. They are even discussing taking our good work, doing it, taking it up in the House. I think that is what would happen. There are a lot of them over there saying, no, they don't want to do that. They want to have a part-time, short-term extension to the end of the year because I think they can get that into some kind of tax reform.
Again, you miss a construction season, and you are wasting valuable time and money. So we do not want to do that, but I want to get into some of these tales, talking about our bridges. There are over 60,000 structurally deficient bridges in this country. The first chart shows--the diagram there--the darker color, that is where the heaviest, the more serious problems are right now.
Look at my State of Oklahoma. For a Western State, we have greater problems than many of the States have. In fact, one out of every four bridges is structurally deficient. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives our bridges a grade of C+.
Now, how did we get here? President Eisenhower's legacy system was built with a 50-year lifespan. In many parts of this country we have exceeded that lifespan. We are out of warranty, I say to the Chair. That is why we need to get it done. MAP-21 was the right step for bringing us into the 21st century, but a long-term solution has been needed to fix the $112 billion in backlog of rehabilitation for our Nation's bridges.
So 430 of the 435 congressional districts have structurally deficient bridges. This means that all but five Members of the House of Representatives have bridges back home in need of major repair in their districts. This is everybody's problem.
In my State of Oklahoma we have two of the top 10 worst districts by number of deficient bridges. One of our districts is ranked second in the Nation. Congressman Frank Lucas's district is a rural district that covers about half of the State, but there aren't many people in there. He said there are over 2,000 deficient bridges just in one congressional district. In Congressman Markwayne Mullin's district, there are 1,205 deficient bridges.
I know firsthand that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation has worked tirelessly to address the needs for bridge safety, but they need longer term certainty in a Federal partnership to make this happen. This is what this bill is all about. In light of the Nation's bridges, we have to do more to prioritize safety and stability. We can't wait around for another collapse to fix the crumbling bridges. A bridge collapse or closure brings significant and sudden economic impacts to the impacted region.
The economic cost of the I-35 West bridge collapse in Minnesota--and we all remember that; that was all over the news in 2007--averaged $400,000 a day of economic loss. The Minnesota Department of Transportation found that the State's economy lost $60 million as a direct result of the collapse.
This is that bridge, as shown in this picture I have in the Chamber. You remember that it had a lot of publicity at the time. Then all of a sudden it is kind of a wake-up call. People realize this is for real. We need to do something about it.
In 2013, the Skagit River Bridge collapse on Interstate 5 in Washington State had similar effects on the local economy, with an estimated impact of $8.3 million during the 26-day closure and repair of this bridge.
The Brent Spence Bridge is a bridge in need of repair. It connects Cincinnati, OH, to Kentucky. This is an old bridge, which you can see just by looking at it. That is one that would have to be replaced.
It would be impossible to do that in anything except a long-term bill. You cannot do that with short-term fixes. Nobody argues that point. That is a fact.
Senator Rob Portman of Ohio and Sherrod Brown of Ohio are very much concerned about this bridge. They are on one side of this bridge, and in Kentucky we have Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul. This bridge is functionally obsolete. It was built in 1963. The bridge is more than 50 years old and is designed to carry more than 85,000 cars a day, but by 2025 it is expected to carry 200,000 cars a day.
According to the American Transportation Research Institute, the Brent Spence Bridge is the fourth most congested truck point in the U.S. infrastructure grid. The cost in congestion is staggering when you consider that $420 billion in freight crosses the bridge every year.
Freight haulers bear the brunt in congestion costs and delays associated with just traveling across the bridge, which cost the trucker almost $40 during rush hour. What we are talking about there is that when cars and trucks are going over this bridge, they are stopped. It is a choke point. So they are sitting there, their engines are idling, and there is a tremendous cost. So in the aggregate, the delays on the bridge cost travelers over $750 million each year in wasted time and fuel. Each year, 1.6 million gallons of fuel are wasted due to congestion on this bridge.
Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby are very concerned about the I-10 Mobile River Bridge in Alabama. Currently, traffic is carried through the George C. Wallace Tunnel, the I-10 crossing under the Mobile River in Alabama.
Constructed in the 1970s, the tunnel was designed with an anticipated daily traffic count--this is the tunnel--of 36,000 vehicles. Currently, the tunnel averages approximately 80,000 vehicles a day and can reach as many as 100,000 vehicles in peak season. The traffic volume causes heavy congestion. This is as it is today. There is a proposed project to relieve the congestion and increase mobility, but it is not going to happen unless we have this bill pass. Arlington Memorial Bridge connects Virginia to DC. Probably, most people who are here today have been across this bridge. They see what condition it is in. It was built in 1932. The Arlington Memorial Bridge is well beyond its design life.
It is structurally deficient. We know what the traffic is like on that bridge. The bridge serves as a significant part of the National Highway System, a major evacuation route, and carries more than 68,000 vehicles each day, including commuters, residents, dignitaries, and official ceremonies. My staff tells me this bridge is on the news on a regular basis due to progressive deterioration. The government has had to conduct emergency-lane closures and enforce a load limit. Repair work will take 6 months to 9 months.
The I-264 bridge over Lynnhaven Parkway carries traffic to Virginia Beach. It is a popular vacation spot. A lot of people here go there with regularity, and they know what this bridge is about. I have crossed this bridge many times. It is one of the 10 most heavily traveled deficient bridges in the State of Virginia. It carries just under 135,000 cars a day.
The Magnolia Bridge is in Seattle, WA. I always wondered why they called that the Magnolia Bridge. There aren't any magnolia trees in that part of the north that I know of. But nonetheless that is what it is. But it was built in 1929. Just imagine that. It is from 1929, and everyone recognizes the dangers that are involved. The bridge carries 18,000 cars a day and is structurally deficient. While the bridge is in a residential area and on the community's radar, it hasn't received necessary funding to reconstruct the 86-year-old bridge.
Greenfield Bridge in Pittsburgh is in the area of the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the House of Representatives. Pennsylvania has the most structurally deficient bridges in the country, and this is just one of them. It was built in 1921 and now carries 7,782 cars a day. A 10-inch chunk of concrete went through a car windshield in 2003, injuring the driver. Later that year, the city spent some $652,000 to build a temporary bridge to catch whatever came through the nets. In other words, there is a bridge under this bridge.
This same thing happened in my State of Oklahoma with a bridge in Oklahoma City.
It wasn't long ago. By the way, that bridge was taken care of in the 2005 bill. It was the last long-term bill that we have had. I recall vividly a mother with three children driving under it. A chunk of concrete fell off and killed the mother instantly. Of course, that got everyone's attention, and then we passed the last reauthorization bill, which was 2005. Greenfield Bridge deals with the similar hazardous issue. They have to build a bridge under the bridge to catch falling debris.
This is the Pittsburgh Greenfield Bridge. Repairing bridges like these cannot be done with short-term fixes.
There is the Court Avenue Bridge in Des Moines, IA. That happens to be where I was born. It is represented now by Senator Chuck Grassley and Senator Joni Ernst. Iowa has the second most number of structurally deficient bridges in the country. It was built in 1918, and it now carries 3,920 cars per day. While the State recently increased the State gas tax, it will still require Federal partnership to ensure progress on fixing this bridge. It is not going to be done without long-term certainty.
There is the Brandywine Bridge on I-95 in Wilmington, DE, which is not far from here. Senator Coons and Senator Carper should be very much concerned about that. That is a 50-year-old bridge. The bridge deck is deteriorating. The viaduct, which carries travelers on I-95, is a major road. If you go from here to New York City, you are talking about I-95, one of the most traveled interstates. It goes through Wilmington and has experienced serious concrete corrosion. In this structure, the substructure has cracks and spalls and is in need of repair. This is another dangerous site. It is not going to be done in the absence of the passage of this bill.
As to the Chef Menteur Pass in New Orleans, I am sure Senator Bill Cassidy and Senator Vitter are concerned. It was built in 1930. It carries 1,800 cars a day across Highway 90.
Then there is Cesar Chavez Boulevard in San Francisco. That was built in 1951 and carries 234,000 cars per day. It is one of the older bridges on the west coast that needs to be repaired.
In Little Rock, AR, getting very close to my area, Senator Tom Cotton and Senator John Boozman are very much concerned about this. They should be. I am sure they are. It is structurally deficient. It was built in 1961 and carries traffic over railroad tracks--116,000 cars a day. Arkansas is delaying projects because of uncertainty at the Federal level. That is what this bill is all about.
The Storrow Drive Bridge is in Boston, MA, and Senator Warner and Senator Markey will be concerned. It was built in 1951. This structurally deficient bridge carries 57,770 cars per day. The Storrow Drive Bridge earned its structurally deficient rating because of the corroding support beams that support one of the many highly trafficked bridges in the Nation. I have crossed that one several times.
We have the U.S. 1-9 over the Passaic River in Newark, NJ. Senator Booker and Senator Menendez are concerned about that. Herbert Hoover was President when the bridge was built in 1932 with an estimated design volume of 5,500 vehicles a day. It is now up to 62,700 vehicles per day.
The Calcasieu River Bridge in Lake Charles, LA, was built in 1952 and is a structurally deficient bridge that now carries 70,100 cars per day. Its steep grades have been cited as a traffic concern, especially given the high volume of trucks that bridge carries along the major east-west corridor.
The Brooklyn Bridge--everyone knows about the Brooklyn Bridge. The pages are too young to remember this, but that was back when Johnny Weissmuller was Tarzan. Did you see any of the old movies? He dove off the Brooklyn Bridge. I remember that from when I was your age. Do you know when that was built? That was built in 1883. This structurally deficient bridge now carries 135,000 cars a day. That is one of the oldest ones around. I remember so well when Johnny Weissmuller was chased by the police and dove down. I always wondered what happened to him.
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge--San Francisco to Oakland, CA--was built in 1936. This bridge is now functionally obsolete, yet it carries 204,900 cars per day, and there are many fears that the bridge might collapse.
That is what happened in Minnesota. You cannot wait until that happens to avoid the disasters. You can almost imagine if this bridge collapsed. People are concerned about it because that is right in the middle of earthquake country. And if you take something that is already structurally deficient and you give it a little bit of tremor, it could go.
In Missouri, Senator Blunt and Senator McCaskill ought to be concerned. It is one State that would significantly benefit from the DRIVE Act and the long-term certainty it provides. Missouri has the fourth most structurally deficient bridges in the country, with 3,310 of them. Furthermore, Missouri has three districts ranked in the top 20 for worst bridges. The district of House Representative Graves has 1,345 deficient bridges, Representative Smith has 615 deficient bridges, and Representative Hartzler has 600 deficient bridges.
Dennis Heckman, Missouri's DOT State bridge engineer, agrees that the State needs to seriously address its aging bridges. It is clear when he says that ``they're in bad condition, they're worn out.''
Broadway Bridge in Kansas City is a prime example of a structurally deficient bridge desperately in need of reconstruction. Built in 1955, this bridge is beyond its design life and has to support over 45,000 cars a day.
The Interstate 70 bridge over Havana Street and the Union Pacific Railroad is in Denver. Cory Gardner is very familiar with this, as is Senator Bennet. This is the most traveled structurally deficient bridge in the State of Colorado. Built in 1964, it has 183,000 daily crossings. Every day 3.7 million Coloradans cross this structurally deficient bridge.
The DRIVE Act will work to make these bridges safer for all travelers.
Getting toward the end here--and there are a lot more--the Russell Street Bridge is in Missoula, MT. I was actually on that when I was up there during Steve Daines' election recently. Transportation For America graded the deck of the Russell Street Bridge a 4 in a soundness scale of 1 through 10. The Russell Street Bridge was built in 1957 and carries 22,650 cars per day.
In light of these decaying bridges, the DRIVE Act will provide adequate infrastructure investment for our Nation's bridges. Senator Barbara Boxer and I made that a top priority in the DRIVE Act, and I think it is something we need to keep in mind.
We have an opportunity to move to this bill this afternoon. The vote hasn't been scheduled yet. It needs to happen today. It will be a motion to proceed to the highway reauthorization bill, and it is one that will get us so that we can start working on amendments. We have a lot of amendments. A lot of people are using this. They know the bill has to pass. This falls into the category of a must-pass bill. Everybody knows, for the reasons I have been talking about for several days, it is going to have to pass. So there are a lot of people who have amendments that have nothing to do with bridges and nothing to do with the roads. That is OK. This is a vehicle they can use to try to get other programs through. In fact, I myself may be guilty of that. But nonetheless we can't do any of that until we get to the bill, so the motion to proceed has to be agreed to.
As soon as the motion to proceed is adopted, I would encourage all Members to come forth with their amendments so they can be heard before any deadlines pass.
With that, I yield the floor.
Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. TILLIS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
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