JUNE 6, 1997

Good morning. I want to thank Senator Warner for convening this hearing on such an important matter. The replacement of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge is a pressing need of our regional transportation network and the leadership of Senator Warner on this issue is greatly appreciated by those who live and travel through the Washington metropolitan area.

The Woodrow Wilson Bridge is a unique component of our nation's transportation infrastructure. It is the only bridge on the interstate highway system owned by the federal government, and that is why I believe the federal government needs to pay for its replacement.

The Wilson Bridge was constructed in the early 1960's and was designed to carry 75,000 vehicles daily. Today, over 160,000 vehicles cross the Wilson Bridge each day. Structural deformities have been identified on the Wilson Bridge which, if not corrected soon, will make it a safety hazard.

Clearly, we cannot afford to wait much longer to solve this problem. I am pleased that Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia have been working closely to find a solution and help to get construction of a replacement structure under way.

I want to share with you several thoughts I have on how the replacement of the Wilson Bridge should proceed. First, I believe the new span of the Wilson Bridge should be wide enough to accommodate the traffic we expect to have 10, 20, and 30 years from now.

Second, I do not believe it should be a toll bridge. The Washington metropolitan area ranks 2nd, behind Los Angeles, as the most congested region in the country. One can only imagine how bad congestion would be if tolls were charged on the new Wilson Bridge. Monumental traffic jams and tie-ups would result, as local traffic and other travelers would be forced to wait in line to pay tolls to cross the bridge.

Finally, I believe the federal government has responsibility to pay for the replacement bridge as well as several interchanges leading to it. We know that the Wilson Bridge is unique as it is the only federally-owned bridge on the interstate highway system and the federal government needs to honor this responsibility.

Again, I want to thank Senator Warner and the rest of the regional delegation for their work on this matter.