Transportation secretary: Funding needed to help nation’s run-down bridges

WASHINGTON — About a quarter of the bridges in the United States are in poor condition and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says unless funding is supplemented, drivers will be increasingly susceptible to worsening roads and failing bridges.

Investing in the nation’s infrastructure is vital, Foxx said on WTOP Friday. Foxx’s visit came less than a week after a chunk of concrete fell from a Capital Beltway bridge and hit a car driving on Suitland Road. The driver was not hurt, but the vehicle was damaged.

The Prince George’s County bridge, which had been deemed structurally deficient, was slated for repairs before the incident.

“This is deferred maintenance that has been piling up year, after year, after year, and you’re seeing the effects of that now,” Foxx said of the bridge.

“This is the kind of thing we can expect if we don’t invest more in our infrastructure.”

Since the incident, Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn ordered inspections of 27 state-run bridges.

Foxx says he wants to “move the country forward” by relieving congestion in growing metropolitan areas, but it is difficult with the current budget. The Department of Transportation budget for fiscal year 2015 is $90.9 billion. In fiscal year 2014, the department’s budget was $77 billion.

“With the budget we have right now, we are not even doing all of the deferred maintenance we have,” he says.

Foxx did not say how much he thinks the department needs for the budget.

Local bridges aren’t the only source of conflict in the area. Metro is under scrutiny after the deadly smoke incident in January.

Foxx says the department will begin a separate federal investigation of the Metro incident.

“We are never comfortable when there are accidents as the one that happened recently and even going back a few years,” Foxx said.

While Foxx says the department is supporting NTSB and the investigation that they’ve undertaken, the Federal Transit Administration, an agency under the DOT, will begin its own investigation.

The federal investigation will begin March 2.

The Department of Transportation recently launched its “Beyond Traffic” study — a look at the framework needed to meet transportation goals over the next 30 years. Foxx says the report will help determine priorities for future generations.

“The challenge we have is giving ourselves the resources to relieve congestion and move the country forward,” he said.

Watch a video about Beyond Traffic:

Sarah Beth Hensley

Sarah Beth Hensley is the Digital News Director at WTOP. She has worked several different roles since she began with WTOP in 2013 and has contributed to award-winning stories and coverage on the website.

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