Amanda Ripley

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Dark Day: Bridge Collapse Anniversary

1st Aug 2008 posted in General

Exactly one year ago, Minneapolis’ Interstate 35W bridge crumpled into a heap, killing 13 people and injuring 100.

What has happened since? A few states, including Minneapolis, have mustered all their courage and made serious investments in their aging infrastructure. But no state has the money to do what needs to be done. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell managed to push through a $350 million bond issue. But, as he recently told CBS News, he needs $80 billion more. “There is no way on this good God’s earth that Pennsylvania alone can come up with that type of funding,” he said.

The feds, meanwhile, have utterly failed to show leadership. Most of the money for public bridge maintenance comes from the federal Highway Trust Fund, which is largely financed by the federal gas tax. But that tax hasn’t gone up in 15 years. It hasn’t even risen with inflation. And Congress isn’t likely to be brave enough to raise it now, given the rise in gas prices.

Transportation continues to be an old-fashioned patronage program in this country, lacking in oversight and accountability. Last week, the House passed (finally) a $1 billion bill to mandate repairs of federal bridges that have been labeled structurally deficient. A step in the right direction. President Bush has promised to veto it.