Senate Passes Vital Infrastructure Improvements Bill

Includes Carper-Voinovich Proposal to Improve America's Infrastructure

At midnight last night, the Senate unanimously passed the “National Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2007” – legislation to address the deteriorating condition of America’s roads, bridges, drinking water systems, dams and other public works.The legislation, which was co-sponsored by U.S. Senators George V. Voinovich (R-OH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Norm Coleman, (R-MN) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY), was passed by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) two days ago and was passed through the Senate last night.

This legislation, which was introduced in early March to establish a National Commission on Infrastructure, was approved by the full EPW Committee to enhance economic growth by ensuring the nation’s infrastructure can meet current and future demands. Sens. Voinovich, Carper, and Clinton, three of the bill’s original sponsors, serve on the EPW Committee.

This infrastructure improvement bill is an important first step to revitalize America’s weakening infrastructure. Hurricane Katrina, alone, made evident the serious need for the repair and improvement of aging infrastructures and waterway systems. And this week’s tragedy in Minnesota underscores this importance. There is a $1.2 billion backlog of unfunded Army Corps of Engineers operation and maintenance projects.  

“The tragedies of Hurricane Katrina and the bridge collapse in Minnesota make painfully clear the urgent need for improvements to our aging infrastructure,” Sen. Voinovich said. “Our infrastructure is collapsing due to insufficient funding. And the deterioration of our nation’s waterways and infrastructure systems are impacting our economy, our environment and the overall welfare of the American people. This legislation gets to the heart of the problem by establishing a commission that will provide concrete recommendations for future infrastructure needs. When enacted, this commission will lead the way in providing long-term solutions to the dire problems we currently face.”

“I have been concerned about infrastructure improvements since I was the Governor of Delaware, and while maintenance draws less attention than building new structures, Hurricane Katrina and this latest tragedy in Minnesota demonstrate the worst that can happen if we ignore critical infrastructure repairs,” Sen. Carper said. “Our infrastructure improvement bill that passed the Senate last night will ensure that as we move forward the Congress will be guided by a comprehensive study of investments needed — from transportation to flood control — to best protect public safety and promote economic growth.”

“The I-35W bridge tragedy was proof that this nation is long overdue for an infrastructure overhaul,” said Sen. Coleman. “We simply can not allow what happened in Minneapolis to occur anywhere else in this country. But before that can happen, we must take a long and honest look at the condition of our nation’s bridges, dams and public works. We’ve seen what the price is for not addressing the problem, and this bill will put in place a plan to strengthen our national infrastructure over the next thirty years.” 

"The catastrophic bridge collapse in Minneapolis is a tragic reminder of the growing challenge we are facing across the country,” Sen. Clinton said. “Our roadways, bridges, railroads and other infrastructure are aging and facing growing strain. It is vital that we make needed investments to rebuild and strengthen our infrastructure and this bill will put us on the path toward meeting this pressing need.”  
The Carper-Voinovich infrastructure provisions of the EPW bill mandate the:
  • Establishment of a National Commission on the Infrastructure of the United States to ensure the nation’s infrastructure meets growing demands and facilitates economic growth;
  • Completion of a study by February 2010 to address all matters relating to the state of the nation’s infrastructure, including: capacity of infrastructure improvements to sustain current and anticipated economic development; the age, condition and capacity of public infrastructure; repair and maintenance needs; financing methods; and investment requirements;
  • Development of recommendations for a federal plan outlining infrastructure priorities; and
  • Completion of a report to Congress by February 2010 that will detail infrastructure legislation deemed necessary for the next five, 15, 30 and 50 years.
TheNational Infrastructure Improvement Act was first introduced in the 109th Congress. The legislation has gained broad support from numerous organizations, such as the American Society of Civil Engineers, U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.