Transportation Department allocates $2 billion to repair vital interstate bridges


Funds for the grants come from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021.

The Department of Transportation announced on Wednesday that over $2 billion in federal grants will be awarded to repair bridges along the national interstate highway system. The Biden administration touted the grants as the largest investment in bridges since the creation of the highway system in 1956.

Funds for the grants come from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021. The legislation passed Congress with votes from Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and some Republican support; but most Republicans voted against it.

"The Biden-Harris Administration is proud to award this historic funding to modernize large bridges that are not only pillars of our economy, but also iconic symbols of their states' past and future," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.

Bridge repairs will be made on some of the most traveled highways in five states — Kentucky, Ohio, California, Connecticut, and Illinois.

$1.385 billion will be used to improve the Brent Spence Bridge, which carries Interstate 75/71 between Kentucky and Ohio across the Ohio River. According to a report issued by the American Transportation Research Institute released in 2021, the Brent Spence Bridge is the second-most congested truck bottleneck in the United States. The new grant will also be used to build a new bridge to alleviate heavy traffic on the thoroughfare.

Funds for the bridge were requested by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who represents Kentucky. McConnell was scheduled to appear with Biden at an event on Wednesday announcing the grant.

California will receive $400 million to upgrade the Golden Gate Bridge's ability to withstand earthquakes. According to the Federal Highway Administration, 37 million vehicles cross the bridge each year, including 555,000 freight trucks.

$158 million will be used on work on the Gold Star Memorial Bridge, which is used by over 60,000 vehicles every day on Interstate 95 over the Thames River in Connecticut.

$144 million will be allocated to rehabilitation of four movable bridges crossing the Calumet River in Chicago. The bridges are raised 5,000 times per year to allow ships access to the Illinois International Port.

The Biden administration noted in a statement that most of the projects funded by the infrastructure law are subject to the federal Davis-Bacon Act, which requires the federal government to pay construction workers wages that are not less than wages and benefits for such work in the area where construction is taking place.

According to the Department of Transportation, the funding "will include investments to both large bridges, as well as to bridges that are in rural and tribal areas."

Former President Donald Trump frequently promised infrastructure investments but failed to get an infrastructure bill passed through Congress, despite complete Republican control of both chambers from 2017 to 2019.

When campaigning in Wilmington, Ohio, in 2016, Trump said he would cancel payments to the United Nations and use the money for "replacing the Brent Spence Bridge."

He did not deliver the funds needed to repair the bridge.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.