States to Compete for 10 Biggest Bridge Fixes

A 'Bridge Closed' sign on Springs Road in Vallejo, Calif., in March. (Bloomberg News)
A 'Bridge Closed' sign on Springs Road in Vallejo, Calif., in March. (Bloomberg News)

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The Biden administration plans to have states compete for a slice of the proposed $2.25 trillion infrastructure-and-jobs program that’s dedicated to fixing 10 unnamed bridges that are seen as economically important.

The “American Jobs Plan,” unveiled by President Joe Biden on March 31, pledged to “fix the 10 most economically significant bridges in the country in need of reconstruction,” along with the “worst” 10,000 smaller ones in need of repair. None of those were specified by name.

The administration’s plan would create a competitive grant program to determine which bridges get funding, according to an administration official. The U.S. Department of Transportation would ask states to submit applications and articulate why their nominee qualifies, offering details on data such as traffic volume or condition of the bridge, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The selection process suggests the potentially long road ahead for some of the giant spending bill, which includes money for green energy, and child and elderly care along with traditional transportation-infrastructure items, to make its way into the economy. In the meantime, a previously enacted $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief bill is seen by economists boosting growth at least through 2022.

Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said on April 6 that the infrastructure portions of the Biden package will “probably” be reported out of his panel in the third week of May. It will be modeled on the nearly $500 billion INVEST in America Act, which passed the House as part of a wider Moving Forward Act infrastructure package in 2020 but wasn’t taken up by the Senate.

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association estimates that about one in three U.S. bridges need repair work. It would cost $41.8 billion to repair the more than 45,000 bridges considered structurally deficient, the group says.

— With assistance from Erik Wasson.

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