Senator James M. Jeffords
Statement on Funding for Bridges Mr. President, I would like to spend a minute talking about bridges and our need to make sure that adequate funding exists to maintain these structures. As many of you know, I have a passion for bridges and specifically covered bridges. While covered bridges are no longer critical parts of our nation’s infrastructure, they provide an important link to our collective past and are feats of engineering and longevity. The National Covered Bridge Preservation Program, which I authored in 1998, has been a great success, albeit a slightly underfunded success. From the Thetford Center Covered Bridge to the Weathersfield Falls Covered Bridge, I have taken great pride in being able to work to rehabilitate these bridges in Vermont. Given my passion for the topic, many members may think that Vermont has the nation’s largest number of these bridges. In fact, Pennsylvania has 220 covered bridges, Ohio has 144 covered bridges, and Vermont has only 99 covered bridges. Even California has 12 covered bridges and Missouri has 5 covered bridges. It is my great regret that I don’t believe Oklahoma has any of these fine structures. While I may seem like a broken record talking about bridges, it is critical that we pass a bill that adequately funds bridge maintenance and repair. While I don’t have the national statistics at my fingertips, those of you that travel around our nation’s capitol can readily attest to the fact that the bridges in this city are choke points for commuters and commerce. The DC Department of Transportation estimates that about $300 million is needed to repair 11 major bridges. If we don’t provide at least some of these funds, our economy will suffer. Senator Leahy and I have been working for years to provide funds to rehabilitate the Missisquoi Bay Bridge in Vermont. This bridge links New York and Vermont and serves as an international corridor to Canada. In 1998, Vermont’s Congressional delegation secured funds in the highway bill to begin the project, and unfortunately we are still at it. I can hardly imagine how long it would take to upgrade the George Washington or Chesapeake Bay Bridges. It is my hope that the Congress will send the President a bill with a robust bridge program. Our nation’s bridges, whether historic or not, are in a state of disrepair and this bill is an important step in the right direction. Mr. President, I yield the floor.