The Fracking Boom is a Fracking Bubble

by Walter Brasch

Gas prices have plunged to the low $2 range-except in Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania, the prices at the pump are in the mid-$2 range.

That’s because Gov. Tom Corbett and the legislature imposed a 28-cent per gallon surcharge tax. Until 2019, Pennsylvanians will be paying an additional $2.3 billion a year in taxes and fees-$11.5 billion total-to improve the state’s infrastructure. In addition to the increased tax on gas at the pumps, Pennsylvania motorists will also be spending more for license registrations, renewals, and title certificates.

For far too many years, the state’s politicians of both major parties, preaching fiscal austerity-and hoping to be re-elected by taxpayers upset with government spending-neglected the roads, bridges, and other critical problems.

What the state government doesn’t readily acknowledge is that much of the damage to roads and bridges has come from increased truck traffic from the fracking industry.  

The state roads, especially the section of I-80 that bisects the northern and southern halves of the state, were already in disrepair, as any long-haul trucker can attest. The addition of 40-ton fracking trucks on two-lane roads, highways and the Interstates, has added to the problem.

“The damage caused by this additional truck traffic rapidly deteriorates from minor surface damage to completely undermining the roadway base [and] caused deterioration of several of our weaker bridge structures,” Scott Christie, Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary of the Department of Transportation, told a legislative committee in 2010. Since then, the damage has increased in proportion to the number of wells drilled into the state.  There are about 7,100 active gas wells in the state, with the cost of road repair estimated at about $13,000 to $25,000 per well.  The fracking truck traffic to each well is the equivalent of about 3.5 million cars on the road, says Christie.

Although corporations drilling into Pennsylvania have agreed to fund repairs of roads they travel that have less than two inches depth of asphalt on them, the fees don’t cover the full cost of repair.  Had the state imposed an extraction tax on each well, instead of a much-lower impact tax, there would have been enough money to fund road and bridge repair without additional taxes for motorists. Every state with shale oil but Pennsylvania has an extraction tax.

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf, who supports fracking, says he wants the state to begin to impose those extraction taxes. The politicians, who benefitted from campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, claim the industry-and all its jobs-will leave the state if the taxes are too high.

There are several realities the oil/gas industry knows, but the politicians, chambers of commerce, and those who believe everything politicians and corporations tell them don’t know or won’t publicly admit knowing.

First-As long as it’s economical to mine the gas, the industry won’t leave the state, even if they have to pay a 5 percent extraction tax, which is at the low end of taxes charged by other states.

Second-Tthe expected $1 billion in extraction tax per year, even if the legislature approves, should not be expected. The industry has already found most of the “sweet spots,” and production will likely fall off in 2015, leading to less income to the state and to leaseholders.

Third-Like a five-year-old in a candy shop, the industry salivated at the newly-found technology and gas availability and overdrilled the past four years, leading to a glut and falling prices. End of the year prices are about $3.17 per million cubic feet, down almost 30 percent from November.

Fourth-Falling prices have led to drilling not being as profitable as it could be.

Fifth-The OPEC countries have not lowered their own production of oil, and the reason for the lower  gas prices at the pumps is not because of the shale gas boom, but because of the plunging price of oil per barrel, which has declined by about 40 percent since Summer. Once oil prices fell beneath about $70-73 per barrel, American shale frackers found themselves unable to compete economically.

Sixth-To compensate for lower prices in the United States, the megacorporate drilling corporations have begun to find alternative ways to make money. One way is to build a massive maze of pipelines, and send natural gas to refineries in Philadelphia and the Gulf Coast, changing the gas into the extremely volatile liquefied natural gas (LNG), putting it onto ships, and exporting it to countries that are willing to pay more than three times what Americans are paying for natural gas. However, there is an unexpected twist. The OPEC low-cost oil has led to a severe drop in Russia’s economy and value of the ruble. Gazprom, the Russian-owned world’s largest gas supplier, is now forced to drop its own prices to be competitive, and has been developing plans to provide gas to Europe and Asia, especially China where American gas is headed, at a price that makes it uneconomical to do long-term contracts.

Seventh-The banks and investment lenders are getting testy. Because of overdrilling, combined with inflated estimates of how much gas really is in the Marcellus Shale, corporations have found themselves in trouble. Many corporations have begun cutting their drilling operations; others have already left the state, burdened by debt to the lending institutions; some corporations have sold parts of their operations or declared bankruptcy.

Eighth-The jobs promised by the politicians, the various chambers of commerce, and the industry never met the expectations. Gov. Tom Corbett claimed 240,000 additional jobs. The reality is the increase in jobs is about one-tenth of that; more important, most of the full-time jobs on the rigs and well pads are taken by workers  from Texas and Oklahoma who have extensive experience in drilling; most of the other jobs are temporary, and layoffs have already begun.

Ninth-The fracking boom for Pennsylvania is more like the housing bubble.  At first, the availability of mortgages looked like a boom. However, a combination of greedy investors and lending institutions with almost no governmental oversight, combined by a client base of ordinary people who were lured into buying houses with inflated prices they couldn’t afford, led to the Great Recession.  Those who didn’t learn from the housing bubble guaranteed the fracking boom would become a fracking bubble.

Tenth-The continued push for fossil fuel development, and more than $4 billion in governmental subsidies, slows the development of renewable energy, while escalating the problems associated with climate change and brings the world closer to a time when global warming is irreversible.

Finally, but most important-The fracking industry doesn’t acknowledge that this newer process to extract gas, which has been viable less than a decade, is destroying the environment, leading to increased climate change, and putting public health at risk, something that dozens of independent scientific studies are starting to reveal. It was a 154-page analysis of public health implications, conducted by the New York Department of Health, and based upon scientific and medical studies, that led New York this month to ban all drilling-and infuriate many politicians and some landowners who were expecting to make extraordinary wealth by leasing mineral rights beneath their land to the gas companies. Of course, they didn’t look to their neighbor to the south to learn the wealth promised was never as much as the royalties delivered and that many landowners now say they should never have given up their mineral rights and the destruction of the land and farms that came with it.

Until prices stabilize, Americans are paying lower prices for gas at the pump; Pennsylvanians are also paying lower prices, but not as low as the rest of the country.

And the politicians and industry front groups continue to foolishly claim there are no environmental or health effects from horizontal fracking, only blue sky and rainbows of riches.

[Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist and the author of 20 books, is a specialist on the effects of fracking. His critically-acclaimed book, Fracking Pennsylvania, is now in its second edition. The book is available from Greeley & Stone Publishers; Amazon; Barnes & Noble; or local independent bookstores.]

   

Transportation Bill Goes Back to Senate

The state House finally passed a transportation bill yesterday after failing to do so Monday.  On a re-vote a bipartisan group of lawmakers narrowly passed a bill which isn’t perfect but which is critically needed.   The legislation now returns to the Senate which already passed a similar bill earlier in the year.

This bill raises the gas tax by 28 cents/gallon over five years which is steep but we must pay for the roads, bridges and transit somehow.  We do need to find new and more innovative methods of funding transportation as vehicles get more fuel efficient and we gradually rely less and less on fossil fuels.

The prevailing wage didn’t belong in this bill and it made it far more difficult to pass.  The bill raises the threshold for triggering the living wages from $25,000 to $100,000.  The limit hadn’t been raised since 1961 so it was due for review.  Let’s just remind Republicans how important considering cost of living increases is when the minimum wage bill comes before them for a vote.

The new threshold for the prevailing wage won’t, in my opinion, have much of an impact.  I don’t think there are many transportation projects which cost under $100,000.  The prevailing wage means non-union workers get paid equivalent wages as their union brothers.  This illustrates the failure of right to work laws in which freeloaders can piggyback on unions for similar wages, benefits and job conditions without paying for them.

I always thought conservatives hated freeloaders so why do they support right to work for less?

Final Pa. Budget Fails to Make Up Lost Ground

By Sharon Ward, Third and State

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has released a full detailed analysis of the 2013-14 state budget plan spending $28.376 billion, roughly $645 million (or 2.3%) more than in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Governor Tom Corbett signed the budget into law late in the evening of June 30, 2013. Overall, the plan is $64 million less than the Governor proposed in February, reflecting nearly $113 million in reduced spending for public school pensions and school employees’ Social Security payments along with a shift of $90 million in General Fund spending off budget to other funds.

2013-14 General Fund Summary

The plan includes a small increase to basic education funding, $122.5 million overall, with $30.2 million allocated to 21 school districts through a supplemental allocation, on top of the $90 million increase in the Governor’s proposal.

After many years of cuts, most programs received small increases in the Governor’s proposed budget, which remained in the final plan.

Changes to pension benefits for current employees, the cornerstone of the Governor’s original budget proposal, did not occur. The Legislature does not seem inclined to tamper with benefits for current employees. A proposal to move to a 401(k)-style retirement plan for new employees gained traction later in the session but was not adopted. This proposal may return in the fall.

Also abandoned was an $800 million education initiative to be funded through the sale of state liquor stores. While the privatization vs. modernization debate held center stage until the last week of the session, the school funding component was quickly abandoned and was not part of legislative proposals. Privatization is likely to be considered in the fall, as well.

For the first time in two years, there were no major cuts to services for vulnerable Pennsylvanians; however, a bill that would expand Medicaid coverage in 2014, a state option under the federal Affordable Care Act, was left undone. Legislation including the Medicaid expansion won bipartisan support in the Senate, but the House stripped out the expansion provision from the bill. When the bill returned to the Senate, a last ditch effort to restore the Medicaid expansion provision failed in a dramatic Senate committee vote on July 3.

Finally, a transportation funding package that would repair crumbling infrastructure and give a much needed shot in the arm to Pennsylvania’s flagging job growth failed to pass the House, despite overwhelming support in the Senate.

Get all the details from PBPC's budget analysis.

Inequality and Infrastructure

By Chris Lilienthal, Third and State

U.S. funding of infrastructure has declined dramatically since the 1960s, and Congress appears to be moving in the direction of even more cutbacks in the years ahead.

There is a bit of irony to this. With borrowing costs still very low and the market still somewhat depressed, now would be an ideal time for government to step up investment in infrastructure. In other words, it costs a lot less to build roads and bridges today than it might down the road if we hold off on the billions of dollars in needed repairs.

Sam Pizzigati laments this irony in a recent op-ed in The Star Ledger of Newark, N.J. And he has an interesting take on why infrastructure is getting short shrift: blame income inequality:

The cost of borrowing for infrastructure projects has hit record lows — and the private construction companies that do infrastructure work remain desperate for contracts. They’re charging less.

Yet our political system seems totally incapable of responding to the enormous opportunity we have before us. Center for American Progress analysts David Madland and Nick Bunker blame this political dysfunction on inequality.

The more wealth concentrates, their research shows, the feebler a society’s investments in infrastructure become. Our nation’s long-term decline in federal infrastructure investment — from 3.3 percent of GDP in 1968 to 1.3 percent in 2011 — turns out to mirror almost exactly the long-term shift in income from America’s middle class to the richest Americans.

Pizzigati notes that middle-class families rely on good roads and mass transit more than wealthy families, but the middle class tends to be weaker in unequal societies:

That leaves Americans with a basic choice. We can press for greater equality. Or spend more time dodging potholes.

Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Good Story: Private School Bus Services in PA Cost More

A blog post by Stephen Herzenberg, originally published at Third and State.

The standard conservative narrative is that private delivery of services and goods trumps government delivery. In Harrisburg, for example, Governor Corbett’s Council on Privatization and Innovation often presents its goal as privatization, taking for granted that this will be more efficient and cost-effective.

In fact, the record on privatization shows that in many cases privatization fails to deliver promised savings and can undercut service quality. That’s part of why Cornell Professor Mildred Warner has found that local governments often bring work back in house.

Earlier this week we released a report, Runaway Spending, which underscores that you can’t simply assume private is better. The report documents that private school bus transportation services in Pennsylvania cost more than when districts provide their own transportation. Even so, the Pennsylvania trend over time is towards slightly more privatization, from 64% in 1986 to 72% in 2008.

Why? One reason in Pennsylvania is that the state reimburses school transportation services more generously when districts contract than when they self provide. Districts may also be attracted by the upfront fee they receive for selling their bus fleet. The downside of that sale, however, is that contractors have more leverage when negotiating terms for unanticipated additional services (e.g., for school sports teams that make the playoffs) or for a new contract.

The factors that make private services more expensive in the case of school buses are also at play in many other cases of privatization. These factors include limited competition in the private sector, the transition costs associated with any change in contractor or switch back to public provision, higher private-sector manager and executive salaries, the need to charge enough to make a profit, and the costs of monitoring private contractors.

Bottom line: the state and local government – and the Governor’s Privatization and Innovation Council – need to do their homework when considering alternative options for delivering publicly funded services. That’s actually a message that former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith brought to the council when he addressed its first meeting.

We’ll know that the Council has shed its ideological beginnings when it asks Matt Brouillette to give in his resig…I mean, when its recommendations include a balance of recommendations for in-sourcing, for contracting out, and for mixed public-private delivery – recommendations grounded in analysis of data, the dynamics of particular markets, and the value-added contractors provide compared to cost increases. And, oh yes, we do think that the quality of workers’ jobs with public versus private delivery should be a consideration.

We look forward to the Council inviting us to present the findings of our study. We also look forward to being invited to join the Council – even if Matt hasn’t left yet.

On Hole Cards, Or, “Drill, Baby, Drill”? Why? Is Canada Out Of Sand?

In America, today, there are three kinds of drivers: those who look at the other gas pumps down at the ol’ gas station and think: “Oh my God, I can’t believe how much that guy’s spending on gas”, those who look at their own pump down at the ol’ gas station and think: “Oh my God, I can’t believe how much I’m spending on gas” – and those who are doing both at the same time.

Naturally, this has brought the Sarah Palins of the world back out in public, and once again the mantra of “Drill, Baby, Drill” can be heard all the way from the Florida coast to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

But what if those folks have it exactly backwards?

What if, in a world of depleting oil resources, the last thing you want to do is use yours up?

To put it another way: why isn’t all our oil part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve?

Consider the inexorable logic of the Big Lie. If a man has a consuming love for cats and dedicates himself to the protection of cats, you have only to accuse him of killing and mistreating cats. Your lie will have the unmistakable ring of truth, whereas his outraged denials will reek of falsehood and evasion.

–From the book Ghost of Chance, by William S. Burroughs

So here’s the thing: we produce a surprising amount of our own oil right here in the USA (in fact, we’re the world’s third-largest oil producer), but we don’t produce enough to cover our current use, and that’s why we import about half of the roughly 19 million barrels of oil we use daily. The vast majority of that is used in vehicles or for heating; almost none is used to generate electricity.

Our largest suppliers of oil, despite what you might think, are not all from the Middle East: instead, it’s Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Venezuela, in that order.

(Perhaps you’re thinking: “Canada? Oil?” Yes. Canada and Oil. They provide us with more than twice as much as Saudi Arabia from huge “oil sand” resources, primarily in Alberta; the exploitation of those resources has created a huge environmental controversy.)

Now if you ask me, an ideal situation would be one where we decided to get out of the business of using oil altogether – and to help make my point, we have some helpful numbers from a guy that you pay every day to figure this stuff out: Mark Doms; he’s the Chief Economist for the US Department of Commerce, and, to paraphrase Little Feat, he’s always handy with a chart.

According to Doms, 60% of our 2010 trade deficit (about $265 billion) represents the cost of imported petroleum products, and if things continue through December as they did the first three months of this year, in 2011 every American, man, woman, and child, will pay a “tax” of about $1000 to import all that petroleum.

Do you know what we, individually, spend on gas? In March of this year, the average household spent just over $300 on that month’s gasoline; 5 months ago that number was $56 lower. The way it works out, every time gas goes up 10ยข a gallon, it costs the average household another $7 a month.

And that’s not all: less than half of the total cost of imported oil is paid at the pump: about 44% of imported oil is used by businesses; another 15% is used by governments across the USA, and that means almost 60% of the cost of imported petroleum is “folded into” the price of everything else.

(A quick author’s note: you’ve seen the words “oil” and “petroleum” used liberally in this story; the exact literal reality is that in each instance we should really be referring to “petroleum products”, and that’s because we import and export not just crude oil, but a variety of other petroleum products. I get tired of using the phrase “petroleum products” over and over, and I’m probably using “oil” and “petroleum” more interchangeably than I should.)

So get this: if we were out of the importing oil business, we’d save about $300 billion a year – and as it turns out, over a 10-year period we could actually convert the entire US auto fleet to electric cars powered by windmills by providing $15,000 cash “buy-outs” for today’s 135,000,000 gasoline cars and building the wind generation and “smart grid” we’d need to support the effort…and doing all that would cost…wait for it…about $250 billion a year.

If I get the math right, 20 years after we first started building windmills and subsidizing cars, everything would be paid off; and every year after that the US economy would generate a $300 billion “profit” on our investment – unless the price of a barrel of oil goes up. If it does, the amount of money coming back to our wallets every single year from then on, obviously, also goes up.

And if we were out of the “using oil for driving” business, once everything was paid off we could put almost $4000 a year (in today’s dollars) right back in the pocketbooks of every family in this country – which, if you ask me, represents a pretty good “tax cut”.

Let’s also keep in mind that any new oil drilled on our public lands might not necessarily end up in the US; that’s because even if oil companies were 100% free to “Drill, Baby, Drill” in our waters to their hearts’ content…they’d also be perfectly free to sell as much of that same oil, anywhere in the world, to whatever entity might end up being the highest bidder – and today, our friends in places like India and China are desperate to be that high bidder.

Put all of this together, and you get back to the question I posed at the top of the story: why in the world would we be in a hurry to “Drill, Baby, Drill”, when we could, instead, put all our efforts into getting out of oil, which would save us so much money that the conversion pays for itself?

Then, when oil’s running $400 a barrel or so, let’s use our oil to pay China back the trillion dollars we owe ’em…which, at current production rates, would only take about 400 days, assuming it were possible to divert all our production for that purpose.

To state it a bit more ironically, it may be that the smartest thing we can do right now is to conserve every possible drop of oil we have…until we don’t need it any more, and it becomes a sort of Strategic Cash Reserve that can help strengthen the dollar and reduce the national debt in the years to come, both at the same time.

Or to put it another way, the next time someone tells you they want to “Drill, Baby, Drill”…you can step right up, look them square in the eye, and ask: “Why do you hate America?”

And won’t that be fun?

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In Case You Missed It: Third and State Blog for Week of March 7

This week on Third and State,  we blogged about Governor Corbett’s state budget proposal, ways to grow the economy and promote broadly shared prosperity, “Mad Men” who like fast trains, and much more!

In case you missed it:

  • On the state budget, Sharon Ward explained why Governor Corbett’s proposed 2011-12 budget should worry parents and property taxpayers, and Chris Lilienthal shared some budget resources and information from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.
  • On wages and the economy, Mark Price challenged the notion that education alone is the cure-all for the economy’s woes and instead invokes the employee-focused business model used by The Container Store as an example of how to boost economic growth and broadly shared prosperity. Mark also delved deeper into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s business climate rankings in a post titled “You Will Never Be Poor Enough.”
  • On other economic issues, Mark shared a 60 Minutes segment on homeless children, while Steve Herzenberg passed on a powerful story that conveys one of the most critical roles that unions play.
  • Finally, we continue a new weekly series we’re calling “The Friday Funny.” This week, “Mad Men” who like fast trains (with a hat tip to PennPIRG’s Megan DeSmedt for passing along).

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Altmire, Sestak Funding New Bridges

Congressmen Joe Sestak and Jason Altmire are working to bring more funds to Pennsylvania for bridge construction.  We all know how bad our infrastructure has gotten in spite of John McCain’s idiotic plan to gut the gas taxes which fund these projects.  McCain’s ill conceived boondoggle would have resulted in tens of thousands of lost jobs so you could save $25 this summer on gasoline.

We need leaders and lawmakers with some common sense.  Avoiding more bridge collapses is more important than saving a few bucks on gas.  You can save that much simply by slowing down to the speed limit.

Here are the statements released today by the Congressmen:

Congressman Sestak Supports Legislation to Ensure Safety of Highway Bridges



Washington, D.C. – To create a more effective highway bridge inspection system and invest in needed repairs on thousands of structurally deficient bridges, Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-07) voted for – and the House passed by a vote of 367-55 – the National Highway Bridge Reconstruction and Inspection Act (HR 3999). The bill strengthens inspection requirements and standards, and authorizes $1 billion to pay for reconstruction costs in Fiscal Year 2009, adding this funding to resources allocated under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA-LU).

“We need to take responsibility for making certain that Americans feel as safe as possible on the roadways and that every possible precaution is taken to avoid an incident like the bridge collapse in Minnesota last year,” said Congressman Sestak. “This legislation includes critical provisions for proper inspection of bridges and takes immediate, necessary action to keep Americans safe. Pennsylvania alone has nearly 6,000 structurally deficient bridges, the most of any state, and receives $97 million through this bill. There is more work to do on this issue, but this is an important step.”

One of the many inspection requirements in the bill mandates an immediate update of the National Bridge Inspection Standards by the Federal Highway Administration. In addition, states must inspect all structurally deficient bridges every year and all other bridges every two years. Since more than half of bridges have existed since before 1964, it is increasingly important to have reliable information on the safety of these structures.

Today’s vote also addresses the need to have qualified individuals providing the status of bridge safety. Currently, no Federal standard or training requirement exists for front-line inspectors. This bill increases qualification requirements, ensuring that licensed professional engineers approve the inspection of highway bridges.

In addition to improving inspection, the bill requires the Department of Transportation to develop a system in which it will assign a risk-based priority to repair, rehabilitate or replace each structurally deficient or functionally obsolete Federal-aid highway bridge.  The National Academy of Sciences will conduct an independent review of the process and states will institute a five-year plan for not only inspecting their highway bridges, but also repairing those that are not structurally adequate.

“Addressing our nation’s bridges is an important part of a larger goal of improving our nation’s infrastructure,” said Congressman Sestak. “The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission made clear in its report earlier this year that our aging surface transportation system cannot manage future needs and that a major increase in Federal funding is imperative. Investing in this type of legislation also has the added benefit of stimulating the economy with new jobs, such as the nearly 35,000 that would be created by the $1 billion authorization in this bill.”

Funds provided by this bill are to be distributed by formula as designed by Federal-aid highway apportionments as part of the Highway Bridge Program. The bill prohibits any congressional or Administration earmarks to be provided under this program. Furthermore, these resources are not transferable to other Federal-aid highway programs.

Born and raised in Delaware County, former 3-star Admiral Joe Sestak served in the Navy for 31 years and now serves as the Representative from the 7th District of Pennsylvania. He led a series of operational commands at sea, including Commander of an aircraft carrier battle group of 30 U.S. and allied ships with over 15,000 sailors and 100 aircraft that conducted operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. After 9/11, Joe was the first Director of “Deep Blue,” the Navy’s anti-terrorism unit that established strategic and operations policies for the “Global War on Terrorism.” He served as President Clinton’s Director for Defense Policy at the National Security Council in the White House, and holds a Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government from Harvard University.  According to the office of the House Historian, Joe is the highest-ranking former military officer ever elected to the U.S. Congress.

ALTMIRE WORKING TO BRING $97 MILLION TO PENNSYLVANIA FOR BRIDGE REPAIRS

(Washington, D.C.) — In an effort to speed up the repair of structurally deficit bridges in Pennsylvania, U.S. Congressman Jason Altmire (PA-04) today voted for legislation that will provide Pennsylvania with more than $97 million to help repair many of the state’s 5,700 structurally deficient bridges. Under the National Highway Bridge Reconstruction and Inspection Act of 2008 (HR 3999), $1 billion in additional funding would be authorized in the FY 2009 budget to repair structurally deficient bridges nationwide. As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Congressman Altmire has been a consistent advocate for increasing investment in our nation’s infrastructure. This bill passed by a vote of 367-55.

“Pennsylvania has the highest number of structurally deficient bridges in the nation. In western Pennsylvania, there are more than 1,000 bridges that are in need of rehabilitation, repair or replacement,” Altmire said. “This $97 million in federal funding, in conjunction with the $350 million investment in bridge repairs that Governor Rendell signed into law earlier this month, could go a long way toward making the necessary repairs to ensure the safety of our bridges.”

In addition to increasing funding, this legislation will also ensure funds are directed to bridges in the greatest need of repair or replacement. It will require a risk-based prioritization for the repair of deficient bridges to ensure states are investing in upgrading the bridges most important to public safety and economic well-being.

It will also improve bridge inspections nationwide by requiring the Federal Highway Administration to immediately update the National Bridge Inspection Standards and establish uniformity among states in conducting inspections and evaluations. States will also be required to immediately inspect all structurally deficient bridges, with additional inspections required annually. All other bridges will be inspected once every two years.

“With the I-35 W bridge collapse in Minneapolis last year, we saw the unacceptable consequences of failing to invest in the maintenance of our nation’s infrastructure,” Altmire said. “Establishing a risk-based prioritization for bridge repairs will help to ensure that this much-needed federal funding is being used as effectively as possible.”