Senate, House Pass $250 Million in Emergency Funding


The U.S. Senate passed a bill Friday night authorizing emergency funding to help deal with the Interstate 35W bridge disaster, just hours after the U.S. House of Representatives took similar action.

The measure will authorize $250 million in federal funds to help Minnesota recover and rebuild after the collapse of the bridge over the Mississippi River.

The measure was authored in the house by Rep. James Oberstar, DFL-Minn., who chairs the House Transportation Committee. It was co-sponsored by the other seven members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation. In the Senate, the measure was backed by both of Minnesota’s senators, Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar.

“The state of Minnesota has 13,000 bridges; 1,135 are structurally deficient, and 451 are functionally obsolescent. That is 12.2 percent; it is one of the lowest percentages in the country, but it underscores a serious problem with the state of Minnesota’s and with the nation’s bridges,” said Oberstar in a statement.

The measure passed unanimously in the House, and was agreed to without objection in the Senate.

“This Senate vote is good news for Minnesota at the close of a week that has brought so much heartbreak to our state,” said Klobuchar in a statement. “Senator Coleman and I were able to impress upon our colleagues the importance and urgency of this funding. This was the most-heavily traveled bridge in the state and our people and businesses absolutely depend on it.”

Coleman agreed, saying in a statement, “We must take immediate steps to rebuild this important artery in the heart of the Mill City. By authorizing the reconstruction of the bridge, authorizing the project for emergency relief funding, and providing transit assistance to ease congestion in the interim, we can begin this long but necessary process. We are going to rebuild this bridge as a community and we are going to rebuild it quickly.”

The measures passed by the House and Senate were slightly different; the House is expected to approve the changes today, and send the bill to President Bush for approval.