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Himes, Finch Announce Federal Funding for Congress Street Bridge

December 16, 2009
Press Release

BRIDGEPORT, CT—After years of neglect and lack of funding, Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) and Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch announced today that they have secured the resources to demolish the Congress Street Bridge, as a first step to restoring this critical link within Bridgeport.  Bridge maintenance and construction are a problem across the state, according to a report issued by the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group, and the Congress Street Bridge epitomizes the detrimental effect non-working bridges have on a city.

“For too long, the inoperable Congress Street Bridge has been an eyesore and impediment to development for the largest city in our state,” said Congressman Himes. “Replacing the Congress Street Bridge is essential, and this is a huge step forward for Bridgeport and the entire state.”

An appropriation of $500,000 was passed by the U.S. House this past Thursday, and the Senate approved the agreement yesterday. The bill, now on its way to the President’s desk as part of the Comprehensive Appropriations Act of 2009, will finalize the resources necessary to demolish the Congress Street Bridge. The appropriation will be used in addition to $1.8 million in Recovery Act funding secured earlier this year.

The Congressman has requested funding for the reconstruction of the bridge through the Transportation Authorization Act of 2009, which awaits action in Congress. Congressman Himes and Mayor Finch met with Transportation Chairman Oberstar earlier this year to reinforce the importance of this funding request. The City of Bridgeport also applied for a TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant, a competitive grant supported by Congressman Himes, and Senators Dodd and Lieberman. The awards for these grants are expected sometime next year.

“This funding allocation, together with the stimulus funding the City received from President Obama, will allow us to take the crucial first step in demolishing this longstanding eyesore that has cut off the downtown from the rest of the City for nearly a decade. I made it a priority at the beginning of my administration to allocate funds to complete the design for a new bridge, which will being jobs and hope to our community and unite the City once again. I want to thank our entire legislative delegation – Senators Chris Dodd and Joseph Lieberman, and our Congressman Jim Himes – for their hard work in making sure that Bridgeport was included in the funding allocations.”

As Congressman Himes and Mayor Finch made their announcement today, ConnPIRG thanked the pair for their work and highlighted the success as an anomaly in the current transportation funding climate. A new report, Greasing the Wheels: The Crossroads of Campaign Money and Transportation Policy, released by ConnPIRG earlier this month, reveals that the nation has 73,000 crumbling bridges, 358 of which are in Connecticut. But year after year startlingly few federal transportation dollars go to fixing them. In 2008, for example, just a few months after the tragic Minneapolis bridge collapse, Congress directed only 74 of the 704 highway projects earmarked in the transportation appropriations bill to repair or maintain a bridge, tunnel, or overpass.

"The Congress Street bridge is an incredible symbol of the neglect of Connecticut's and our nation's bridges.  We have a political system that frequently favors new highway construction over necessary bridge repairs.  The total amount of taxpayer funds earmarked by members of Congress in 2008 for highway projects was nearly $600 million,” said Jeff Musto of ConnPIRG. “To give a sense of the scale of these funds, the same money could have brought 20 structurally deficient bridges per state or two bridges per Congressional district into a state of good repair that year.  The hard work of Congressman Himes and Mayor Finch to secure funding for the Congress Street Bridge is the exception that proves the rule.  We applaud them for their successful efforts—their leadership on this provides an example for other elected officials throughout the country to follow."