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Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I would like to speak on the vote that is about to occur in this Chamber on the Rebuild America Jobs Act.
Over the past few days, we have been discussing how to best address our Nation's crumbling infrastructure. The cracks in this broken system became tragically clear on a beautiful summers day in Minnesota, August 1, 2007, when the I-35W bridge simply crashed into the Mississippi River, killing 13 people and throwing dozens of cars in the river. As I said that day, a bridge should not fall down in the middle of America, but it did, and an eight-lane highway should not fall down, not a highway that is literally six blocks from my house, a bridge that I drive over every day with my family, but that is what happened.
Four years after the I-35W bridge collapsed and was fixed a year later, still 25 percent of the Nation's 600,000 bridges have been declared structurally deficient or obsolete--25 percent. Our country has gotten a near-failing grade from the Civil Academy of Engineers. Our construction workers have an unemployment rate that is over 13 percent--more than 4 points above the national average. These are not acceptable realities in this country.
Americans spend 4.8 billion hours every year stuck in congestion, stuck in traffic.
When you look at what happens in other countries, other countries that are spending 7, 8, 9 percent of their gross national product on infrastructure, we are barely hanging in at 2 percent. Yet we want to be a competitive nation, we want to be a nation that makes things again, that exports to the world. If we do not have the air traffic control system that works, if we don't have the bridges that work, if we don't have the highways that work, if we don't have the waterways to bring our barges down to bring our goods to market, we are not going to be able to compete in this economy. This is simply not an acceptable reality for a country such as America.
Think about the Interstate Highway System, built during Eisenhower's Presidency with a Democratic Congress. Think about rural electrification. These things were built during difficult times in this country. Why? Because we didn't think America was about just tinkering at the edges, we believed America was about moving ahead. That is why we need to move forward today on the Rebuild America Jobs Act. All of us recognize the urgent need for new and bold initiatives to fix what is broken and to build the roads, the bridges, and the airports we need to fuel a 21st-century export economy.
The infrastructure bank, which is, of course, included in this legislation, is something that has enjoyed bipartisan support from the beginning. It is one of those initiatives that will foster public-private partnership, with the potential to leverage hundreds of billions of dollars for infrastructure investment. It is about big projects, but it is also about rural projects in States such as Vermont and Minnesota. It is about wastewater treatment plants and water projects and sewer projects--work that has been neglected for way too long.
Fixing our Nation's infrastructure will provide a broad range of benefits. We can reduce our congestion, we can better compete globally, and we can create jobs and improve public safety. This is about working to ensure that no bridge ever again collapses in the middle of America. This is our challenge. We cannot put it off any longer. This is the time to act.
Traditionally, there had been no such thing as a Democratic bridge or a Republican bridge. In fact, the Transportation Secretary for President Obama is a former Republican Congressman. We have come together on infrastructure. We cannot come apart. This is the time to come together.
I urge my colleagues to vote to allow this bill to proceed to a vote.
Mr. President, I yield back all the time on both sides, and I ask for the yeas and nays.
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