728 bridges in Virginia are structurally deficient; Sen. Warner says infrastructure deal is near

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- There are more than 700 structurally deficient bridges in Virginia, according to the Department of Transportation. 

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va) visited one of them on Friday as a bipartisan infrastructure deal stalls in Congress.

Republicans blocked the bill from moving forward earlier this week but Warner said the group is nearing a breakthrough. After a call with the White House on Friday morning, Warner expected negotiations to wrap up by the end of the day and for the bill to be back on the Senate floor on Monday for further debate. 

More than 20,000 vehicles cross the Mayo Bridge in Richmond each day. Now more than one hundred years old, City Bridge Engineer Dr. John Kim said water is causing cracks in the infrastructure. 

“It pushes out the concrete with tremendous force…it causes more cracks and this gets worse and worse,” Kim said. “That doesn’t mean it’s not safe to cross, it is more like the check engine sign on your vehicle.”

City officials warn, without federal help, bridge repairs will be delayed, construction costs will increase and conditions will worsen, possibly to the point of temporary or partial closure. 

“The infrastructure bill would close the funding gap so construction could begin in just two years, not ten,” said Lincoln Saunders, Richmond’s Acting Chief Administrative Officer. 

The Virginia Department of Transportation said underfunding has prevented significant progress on bridge rehabilitation in the past. 

“We have 728 structurally deficient bridges in the commonwealth,” said Nick Donohue, Virginia’s Deputy Secretary of Transportation. “There is only so much we can really do here in Virginia and this infrastructure deal would allow Virginia to make transformative investments.”

If passed in its current form, Warner said the bill would provide $579 billion nationwide for various infrastructure priorities, including roads, bridges, water, sewer, broadband and addressing climate change. Warner said $109 billion would be dedicated to roads and bridges alone.

“It is time for this to happen. If we can’t get together on infrastructure, we can’t get together on anything. I appreciate my Republican friends who have been working with us,” Warner said. 

One of the major sticking points in negotiations has been how to pay for the massive deal. 

Warner said there will be no tax increase associated with this physical infrastructure bill. 

However, he couldn’t say the same when it comes to a so-called “human infrastructure” companion package, which some Democrats are threatening to pass without Republican support. 

“I’m going to try to get my Republican friends to join with me on that. To pay for that, we are going to have to go into the tax code,” Warner said. 

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