Higgins comments on I-5 bridge collapse in Washington Stateby jmaloni
"Last night's collapse of a section of the I-5 bridge in Washington State is a frightening reminder of the critical state of our nation's infrastructure. We are thankful that no one was killed, but an incident like this should never be acceptable in this nation.
"The truth is, we have no one to blame but ourselves for a long-standing lack of sufficient investment in our nation's infrastructure right here at home. The perilous state of the I-5 bridge was already known - it had been deemed fracture critical and functionally obsolete. And sadly, this is among one of an alarming number of bridges across our nation in a degrading condition.
"The statistics are more than enough to raise concern:
- According to the World Economic Forum, our nation is 24th in infrastructure quality.
- According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, there are 69,000 structurally deficient bridges in this nation.
- In New York State alone, over 2,100 bridges are structurally deficient and more than 4,700 - close to 30 percent of all New York bridges - are functionally obsolete. There are 99 such bridges in the Western New York region alone.
- The Buffalo Niagara region ranks 13th worst in the nation, among similar sized communities, in terms of deficient bridges according to a report released by Transportation for America.
- Twenty-five bridges in Erie County are rated both fracture critical and structurally deficient.
- Every second of every day, seven Western New Yorkers drive on a bridge that is structurally deficient.
"There is not only a human cost to our crumbling infrastructure, but also an economic one. A lack of investment in port infrastructure could account for $270 billion in export losses by 2020; likewise, air traffic delays cost the economy $33 billion a year, while freight bottlenecks could cost the American economy as much as $200 billion per year. Last night's collapse will indefinitely cut off one of the main connections between Seattle and Canada, affecting commuter travel and commerce.
"Our country has spent $89 billion rebuilding the roads and bridges of Afghanistan and $69 billion rebuilding the roads and bridges of Iraq, yet this Congress will spend only $53 billion rebuilding the roads and bridges of our own country. This is unacceptable.
"Last night's bridge collapse should be a wakeup call. It's time to do some real nation building right here at home."
Higgins has repeatedly advocated for a large-scale investment in American infrastructure. Last year, he introduced H.R. 4352, the Nation Building Here at Home Act, which calls for a $1.2 trillion investment in U.S. infrastructure over the next five years. A report by the New America Foundation, titled "The Way Forward," found this level of investment will create more than 27 million jobs through the projects themselves and multiplier effects.
Higgins will reintroduce this legislation this year.