Gov. Lee wants federal investments in infrastructure, won’t commit to using pre-approved funds to fix ‘structurally deficient’ bridges

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NASHVILLE, Tenn.,- According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, over 800 bridges in Tennessee are structurally deficient, meaning one or more “major structural components of the bridge are rated in ‘poor’ condition.”

The infrastructure issues are coming to the forefront after inspectors discovered a crack in the I-40 bridge connecting Tennessee and Arkansas.

Governor Bill Lee acknowledged he’s monitoring the bridge shutdown in Memphis, but did not outline in specific detail how he is addressing the hundreds of bridges across Tennessee in need of repairs.

However, the Republican governor recognizes critical infrastructure repair needs.

“Clearly investments in infrastructure in this country are needed,” Lee said.

The I-40 bridge that connects Memphis and Arkansas could be out of commission for months.

“This I-40 bridge is a reason why we must continue to invest in our infrastructure of our country because it not only helps commerce, it helps the economy; it helps jobs,” Memphis Democrat Rep. London Lamar said.

In new federal relief funds slated for Tennessee, rules give the Governor broad discretion to spend $3.7 billion, money that could be spent for immediate infrastructure needs.

Lee said he wants to see the federal infrastructure plan being negotiated in Washington, D.C.

“That’s why we’re so interested in what the federal dollars for the infrastructure, the future infrastructure plan, are going to be, but our Department of Transportation has a regular process for inspection and repair those bridges and we use our dollars for that,” Lee said.

The new concerns underscore the need for new and targeted infrastructure repairs, including new money for the hundreds of structurally deficient bridges.

“The shutdown of the I-40 bridge is a prime example of why we need to use those dollars to invest in infrastructure. Closing that bridge is not only going to impact Memphis and shipping companies across this country, but it’s going to effect the state as well,” Lamar said.

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association estimates the cost of repairs for Tennessee is $3.7 billion.

Both Representative Lamar and Governor Lee said they support what TDOT and their Arkansas counterparts are doing to address the issue.

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