Legislators Introduce Legislation to Help Prevent Bridge Corrosion, Collapses like Fern Hollow

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U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and U.S. Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA-8) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation this week to strengthen standards for federally funded infrastructure projects by ensuring that critical corrosion prevention work is done by qualified workers using proven techniques. Corrosion is a leading cause of bridges—including Pittsburgh’s Fern Hollow Bridge—falling into poor condition. The legislation would also build on a recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board and direct the Department of Transportation to study and generate best practices for inspecting and addressing corrosion on bridges made of weathering steel, a special type of steel that the former Fern Hollow Bridge had been constructed with.

“The Fern Hollow Bridge collapse underscored the importance of taking corrosion prevention seriously. We need strong federal standards to make sure that we are using properly trained workers and leveraging existing expertise when performing this vital work on our Nation’s bridges,” Senator Casey said. “The Bridge Corrosion Prevention and Repair Act will ensure we invest Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act dollars responsibly—using proven practices and experienced workers who make Pennsylvania’s bridges safer and stronger.”

“Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Congress and the Biden Administration is making the largest federal investment to modernize our nation’s infrastructure since the Interstate Highway System was established. Our legislation requires all federally funded bridge projects to use certified contractors for any corrosion control work and employ industry-recognized standards for corrosion mitigation and prevention,” Congressman John Garamendi said. “America’s corrosion professionals and union painters are ready, willing, and able to do the job, especially those who have completed federally registered apprenticeship programs. I am thrilled to work with my colleagues to pass this critically important legislation.”

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“In 2021, the nation’s Infrastructure Report Card rated the bridges in Pennsylvania with a D+ grade and the bridges across the U.S. with a C grade,” Congressman Fitzpatrick said. “Seeing our infrastructure literally crumble and corrode, Congress came together to enact the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to renovate, rehabilitate, and rebuild our America’s physical infrastructure. Today, I am proud to lead the bipartisan, bicameral Bridge Corrosion Prevention and Repair Act, which will ensure that the standards are raised, structural conditions are improved, and communities are made safer.”

The Bridge Corrosion Prevention and Repair Act would:

  • Require all entities receiving federal transportation or transit funding to use qualified contractors and industry-recognized standards whenever performing corrosion control work, including work on highway bridges, off-system or locally owned bridges, and rail bridges.
  • Require entities to develop a comprehensive corrosion control plan for individual projects.
  • Direct the Federal Highway Administration to develop a list of best practices for inspecting, mitigating, and addressing corrosion on bridges made of weathering steel. Weathering steel is the specific type of steel that was used on the former Fern Hollow Bridge, and although it can be resistant to corrosion without the need for painting or treatment, without proper care, weathering steel can corrode just like normal steel.

The bill is endorsed by the Association for Materials Protection and Performance (AMPP) and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT).

Read more about the Bridge Corrosion Prevention and Repair Act here.

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