KANSAS CITY, Kan. — While along the Kansas riverfront near the Rock Island Bridge Friday afternoon, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg weighed in on the bridge collapse that happened in Pittsburgh earlier that morning.
A port authority bus was on it when it collapsed, sending a number of people nearly 150 feet down before they were rescued. The collapse came just hours before President Joe Biden was set to arrive in the city to push the $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating that scene now.
“The bottom line is that this shouldn’t happen in the United States of America,” Buttigieg said. “We are seeing before our eyes in very blunt terms, what the cost can be of disinvestment in our bridges.”
The secretary originally came to the Kansas riverfront with 3rd District Congresswoman Sharice Davids to talk about the infrastructure law that went into effect in November.
“It’s going to help us build more electric busses,” Buttigieg said of the law. “It’s going to help kids get to school without being exposed to toxic fumes. It’s going to help us expand public transit to make commutes faster and traffic lighter.”
Most importantly the secretary said the bill’s going to create what he called ‘good paying union jobs,’ saying tens of thousands of bridges need repair across the country. He says more than 1,000 bridges in Kansas are in poor condition. More than 2,000 are in that case in Missouri.
“When they close, or when they need to be restricted because of load limits, or worse when a bridge collapses, it impacts everyone,” he said.
The federal government plans to fix up to 15,000 bridges around the United States.
“[It’s] the biggest bridge investment since that son of Kansas, President Eisenhower launched the interstate highway system itself, and that is underway as we speak.”
Missouri’s expected to get about $7 billion over five years in funding for highways and bridges. Kansas is expected to get at least $2.8 billion over that same time period.
The secretary also opened a grant program called Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity, otherwise known as RAISE.
State leaders in Kansas and Missouri can try to get even more federal funding than what’s already been allotted to fix their bridges. Leaders at the state level get to decide what projects they want to spend the money on.
Buttigieg said Friday by looking at both the Rock Island and Cesar Chavez Bridges, they could be eligible for federal money in the future, if Kansas leaders decide they want them to be repaired.