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Federal Funds Will Help Shore Up Bridges in Danger of Collapse, Lawmakers Say

From left, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D), Rep. Jon Sarbanes (D), Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D), Baltimore County Executive Johnny A. Olszewski (D), Sen. Ben Cardin (D) and state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-Baltimore County) speak to reporters Monday near a “structurally deficient” bridge in Dundalk. Photo by Bruce DePuyt.

Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation said Monday that an infusion of federal infrastructure funds makes it less likely that the state will experience a catastrophic bridge failure like the one that occurred in Pittsburgh on Jan. 28.

Standing before a “structurally deficient” bridge in Baltimore County, lawmakers said the $1.2 trillion infrastructure measure that President Biden signed in November will allow states like Maryland to make overdue repairs to structures that residents depend on — even if they don’t think much about them.

“Infrastructure should be seen and not heard,” said Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D). “We don’t want it crashing down around us.”

Ten people were injured when the Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park gave way. The collapse caused a commuter bus to dangle over a ravine, a drama that played out on national TV.

In a preliminary report, the National Transportation Safety Board said that recovering and documenting evidence will be “a lengthy process,” and that its investigation will include a forensic examination of structural components from the bridge.

Lawmakers spoke to reporters not far from a 1960 bridge that carries the Peninsula Expressway over CSX tracks in Dundalk, not far from the sprawling Tradepoint Atlantic industrial complex in southeast Baltimore County.

Maryland has 5,430 bridges. According to a recent analysis by the Federal Highway Administration, 5% of them — 273 structures — are in “poor” condition.

“For too long, we’ve neglected our country’s aging infrastructure — the roads, rails, bridges that keep all of us on the move,” said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D). “The (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) is the most sweeping investment in American infrastructure ever.”

The measure, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, will provide $7 billion to Maryland over the next five years, including $409 million for bridge repair and replacement. Other funds can be used for roads, transit, water systems, broadband, climate-related projects and more.

Lauren Buckler, deputy director of the Baltimore County Department of Public Works, estimated it will take two years to design and two years more to build a replacement for the bridge that carries Route 157 traffic over the rail track.

“We have to modernize our infrastructure,” said U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D). “We have bridges that are in danger of falling down.”


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Federal Funds Will Help Shore Up Bridges in Danger of Collapse, Lawmakers Say