Braley Calls for Addressing 'Huge Backlog' of Infrastructure Needs
By James Lynch, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley concluded his Iowa Works tour at a Cedar River bridge that he said was replaced, in part, as a result of his legislative efforts to create a funding stream to replace bridges destroyed by the floods of 2008.
At the time, the bridge, which crosses the Cedar River between Eighth and Twelfth avenues, was carrying 20,000 railroad carloads of corn each year, according to Jeff Woods of the Crandic railway. The loss of the bridge affected all local grain processors, he said.
Braley, a four-term U.S. House member, said he has distinct memories of the bridge going down because two days earlier he had watched on television in the U.S. House cloak room as a downtown Waterloo Iowa Northern bridge collapsed.
"That was the beginning of a long and very challenging period for the people in the 1st District and down here in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City," Braley said.
The 1st District Democrat worked with the American Short Rail Association and other Iowa congressmen to get his "Back on Track" bill introduced to provide funding to rebuild the Cedar Rapids and Waterloo bridges. A year after the flood, $7 million was approved to rebuild the Cedar Rapids bridge.
Since then the volume of corn that crosses the bridge has increased, he said.
During the Iowa Works campaign tour, Braley has highlighted Iowans' hard work, the need for policies that strengthen the middle class and create good-paying Iowa jobs, and discussed his own working background, which includes four summers working on bridge crews.
However, it shouldn't take a flood or other natural disaster for Congress to address the "huge backlog" of infrastructure needs, such as a number of Mississippi River bridges that are either functionally deficient or structurally obsolete, he said.
"We need to continue to invest in and rebuild our infrastructure because, as you heard today, a lot of businesses depend on the free-flow of their product in order to get things to their customers," he said.
"Whenever there is a breakdown in that transportation system it costs time and costs money."
He's called for an infrastructure databank that helps Congress prioritize infrastructure needs and work with private businesses to find the necessary funding.
"You don't have to travel far from here to see the importance of that," Braley said. At the Quad Cities, "the I-74 bridge is shut down in one direction. Think about the time and delay and impact on that economy, and multiply that by all the bridge we have to replace in this country."
A lot of people would be put back to work if Congress could find the funding to begin replacing those bridges, he added.