JUNE 6, 1997

Mr. Chairman, there can be no doubt that the Wilson Bridge is a huge problem, perhaps even a disaster waiting to happen. All of us who live and work in this area are familiar with the problems. Tremendous traffic back-ups, constant maintenance, and federal highway inspectors who feel compelled to cheek the safety of the span with absurd frequency.

I do not want to be drawn into the debate over the design or the ultimate location for the Wilson Bridge replacement. The local residents and the federal, state, and local officials here this morning are the best ones to work out these details. However, I want to be firm in stating that the federal government has an obligation to solve this problem. The Wilson Bridge is federal property located on federal land.

Although the Wilson Bridge is the only federally-owned bridge on the Interstate Highway System, there are other federal bridges located at strategic points on our nation's highways. Most notable among these is the Hoover Dam Bridge spanning the border between Arizona and Nevada. Like the Wilson Bridge, it is being asked to handle far more traffic that it was ever designed to carry. There are also severe security patterns present at this heavily-travelled between points in Arizona and Nevada. The tight canyon curves and a very narrow bridge span atop the Dam make it a tremendously hazardous crossing. Traffic is nearly constantly backed up for miles.

Matters are only going to get worse. The highway crossing at Hoover Dam is part of the NAFTA corridor, which is going to see more and more truck traffic in coming years. Given the close quarters on the bridge, it is just a matter of time until a truck crashes into the electricity yard at the Dam or Lake Mead.

In a year when this Committee is going to re-authorize our nation's transportation program and, in so doing, give an unprecedented amount of authority and discretion to states and localities, it is nothing short of a disgrace that the federal government has not been able to do a better job of taking care of its own bridges. The federal government has a responsibility to take care of and replace federal bridges, particularly those on federal property.

Senator Warner, I look forward to working with you to ensure that the legislation reauthorizing ISTEA contains language providing a funding category for all federal bridges on public lands. Thank you.