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Up Close and Personal

The U.S. Dept. of Transportation and lawmakers in Congress are moving quickly to provide aid for initial repairs and longer-term reconstruction for the collapsed Interstate–35 bridge in Minneapolis.

DOT Secretary Mary E. Peters announced Aug. 2 that Minnesota would receive $5 million in federal highway aid. The funds, she said, "will give crews the support they need to begin restoring traffic flow, clearing debris, setting up detours and making repairs."

The cost of repairs and major reconstructin or a new bridge will be much higher than $5 million, however. To assist with those expenses, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a bill to authorize $250 million in federal aid to repair and reconstruct the bridge.

The measure, which the panel cleared Aug. 2 on a voice vote, also would provide that the work on the bridge would be 100% federally funded. In addition, it would waive the current $100–million annual cap on the Federal Highway Administration's "emergency relief" funding.

Committee Chairman James Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat, said that the FHWA emergency relief account is almost exhausted, with a balance of only about $5 million, because of funding allocated for disaster–related repairs in other states.

Oberstar said he expected the full House to approve the bill, perhaps late tonight.