Buttigieg points to Pittsburgh bridge collapse as blunt reminder of infrastructure spending needs

U.S. transportation secretary points to poor condition of thousands of Kansas, Missouri bridges

By: - January 28, 2022 2:17 pm

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Friday during a visit to Kansas City, Kan., the tragic collapse of a Pittsburg bridge illustrated the necessity of federal infrastructure spending to make travel safer (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector).

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Friday the collapse of a bridge in Pittsburgh illustrated the necessity of federal investment in the nation’s infrastructure, including more than 1,000 bridges in poor condition in Kansas and twice that total in Missouri.

Buttigieg braved winter chill to stand at the rusting Rock Island railroad bridge and the heavily used Cesar Chavez Bridge carrying vehicles over the Kansas River to outline benefits of bipartisan legislation signed by President Joe Biden expected to funnel billions of dollars into infrastructure projects in both states.

The secretary expressed appreciation to first responders and committed the agency to support of the investigation of the collapse in Pennsylvania.

“Bottom line is this shouldn’t happen in the United States of America,” he said. “It is a very blunt reminder, among many reminders, of just how urgent the need is to invest in American infrastructure.”

Buttigieg said safety problems with bridges and roads across the nation was a result of disinvestment in public infrastructure. The U.S. Department of Transportation has been working to distribute funding to address safety and modernization priorities, he said.

“Right here in Kansas there are more than 1,000 bridges in poor condition,” the secretary said. “Over 2,000 across the state line in Missouri. We need to get to work right away. Instead of wringing or hands about it, we’re actually doing it.”

He said resources would be for work on large, well-known bridges as well as smaller rural bridges that had fallen into disrepair.

“We have to help communities to get the resources to make those improvements,” he said.

Based on formula-based funding, Kansas would expect to receive $2.8 billion and Missouri approximately $7 billion over five years in federal highway and bridge infrastructure funding. Both states also could compete for billions of additional infrastructure aid for roads, bridges, ports, broadband, emissions control and public safety projects.

Buttigieg spoke to reporters and local government officials at a news conference with U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor Tyrone Garner and Kansas transportation secretary Julie Lorenz.

Davids, a Democrat representing the 3rd District and the only member of the Kansas congressional delegation to vote for the infrastructure bill, said the federal law would earmark about $225 million over five years to repair and modernize bridges in Kansas. More than 700 bridges her the 3rd District of Wyandotte and Johnson counties were in need of work.

“Six of the top 10 most traveled structurally deficient bridges in Kansas are in the Third District. With this new funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law, we can begin to clear the backlog of repairs and ensure that all our bridges are safe and sound for years to come,” Davids said.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter is Senior Reporter for Kansas Reflector. He's reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.