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Federal bridge bill would send $7.3 million to Minnesota

By Edward Felker

Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The House this week is to take up a bill targeting $1 billion for the repair and rehabilitation of the nation’s problem bridges, including more than $7.3 million for Minnesota.

The money would be available for bridges within the federal-aid highway system, including 621 bridges rated as deficient in Minnesota and 6,175 nationally.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Mankato, a member of the House Transportation Committee, is set to offer an amendment inspired by the closing of the Minnesota Highway 43 bridge over the Mississippi River at Winona, his spokeswoman said. The bridge re-opened to truck traffic on Monday; bicycle and pedestrian access is still banned.

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Walz’s amendment would require the federal Transportation Department, within 15 days of the closing of a federal-aid highway bridge due to a critical finding, to report on the expected economic and regional transportation effects and recommend solutions.

Walz’s spokeswoman Meredith Salsbery said the amendment will quickly provide affected communities with information about the effect of a closed bridge and spur mitigation.

"In the case of Winona, had that been in place, it would have provided the community with some valuable information," she said.

The amendment is expected to be noncontroversial, she said, along with the full bill, which was crafted by the transportation committee’s chairman, Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota, D-Chisholm. Troy Young, spokesman for Rep. John Kline, R-Lakeville, said he supports the bill.

The bill comes nearly a year after the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, which killed 13 people.

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