States Get Creative After Bridge Collapse

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This is the scene of the collapsed 35W bridge over the Mississippi River Thursday, Aug. 2, 2007, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
AP Photo/Morry Gash
It was the height of the afternoon rush hour when a seemingly sturdy Minneapolis bridge suddenly came apart at the seams - taking 13 lives down with it.

It was a wake-up call about the nation's crumbling infrastructure, CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reports.

"A bridge in America just shouldn't fall down," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

The country's 152,000 structurally deficient bridges would cost $140 billion to fix.

"The states have started to step up, which is good," said Andrew Herrmann of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Herrmann, a bridge expert, says the Minneapolis collapse has spurred several states to get creative.

Missouri made a deal with a single contractor to improve 800 of its worst bridges and maintain them for 25 years.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell pushed through a $350 million bond issue. But during a visit to Minneapolis with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Rendell told CBS News he needed $80 billion more.

"There is no way on this good God's earth that Pennsylvania alone can come up with that type of funding," said Rendell. "So this is something that's gonna need state and local and federal cooperation."

But federal cooperation has been slow in coming. Congress is still debating a bill proposed right after the collapse to provide $1 billion for emergency bridge repairs.

Meanwhile, federal gas tax funds used to pay for road repairs are shrinking as Americans drive less to avoid high gas prices.

"If you had enough funding, what would you do?" Cordes asked Nick Roper, a chief bridge engineer for Northern Virginia, one year ago.

"I would replace every deficient bridge that's in my district," he said.

CBS News asked Roper this year if anything's changed.

"Last year at this time you told me you have 30 deficient bridges in your district. How many do you have now?" Cordes said.

"Right now we have 56," he said.

What happened?

"Just inspections," he said.

And it's happening nationwide, which may not be a bad thing. After investigators determined that the Minneapolis bridge lacked proper support, 750 similar spans underwent thorough inspections.

"As a result of that, I believe significantly more bridges have been strengthened … in a way that enables them to be much safer than they were before," said Mark Rosenker, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board

Sadly, it took a tragedy to start the nation on what is going to be a very long and expensive journey.

  • Nancy Cordes
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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.