June 12, 2013

To Ensure Safety of Nation’s Bridges, Rahall Calls for Expedited Inspection Requirements

To Ensure Safety of Nation’s Bridges, Rahall Calls for Expedited Inspection Requirements

Washington, DC – Following the recent collapse of the I-5 Bridge in Washington State, U.S. Rep Nick J. Rahall, top Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is calling for the accelerated implementation of new inspection standards and reporting requirements to ensure the safety of the nation’s bridges.  

In a letter today, Rahall asked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to swiftly implement measures that Congress included in the new surface transportation law designed to boost bridge safety.  “Strengthening the bridge inspection standards and ensuring States are complying with the requirements of this program are critical to ensuring that highway bridges remain safe to the traveling public,” said Rahall. 

MAP-21 requires the U.S. Department of Transportation to update inspection standards to specify methods for and frequency of bridge inspections, as well as training and qualifications for bridge inspectors.  Additional provisions in the new law require the Department to develop procedures for States to report to any critical findings related to structural or safety deficiencies identified during a highway bridge inspection.

Many of the heightened bridge safety standards included in MAP-21 are based on legislation developed by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in the wake of the 2007 collapse of the I-35W Bridge which claimed 13 lives. 

“While we do not know the precise cause of the startling I-5 bridge collapse we do know that thousands of bridges used by the traveling public everyday are carrying loads that they were not designed to accommodate and have lasted far beyond their life expectancy,” said Rahall.  “Replacement of these bridges will take time and money.  We should be investing both, but in the interim we must move quickly to put in place the safety standards that can help avert future catastrophes and save lives.”

In his letter to Secretary LaHood, Rahall added that Congress and the Administration must work in concert to ensure that future bridge failures are prevented.  “With one of every four bridges in the Nation structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, we must work together to ensure that our Nation’s highway bridges are safe and ensure that such a bridge collapse does not occur again.” 

Currently, Ranking Member Rahall is developing legislation to address the backlog of structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges around the country. Rahall is also today asking the DOT Inspector General for a detailed assessment of how states and the Federal Highway Department have responded to warnings about the safety of the nation’s bridges. 

Copies of Rahall’s letters to Secretary LaHood and the Department of Transportation Inspector General and a state-by-state chart of structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges in the U.S. are linked below.

Secretary Lahood Letter

Inspector General Letter

Structurally Deficient and Functionally Obsolete Bridges