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Oberstar calls for 5-cent gas tax increase for bridge inspections

  • Article by: Jake Sherman
  • Star Tribune
  • August 8, 2007 - 1:48 PM

Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., who today flew over the wreckage of the Interstate Hwy. 35W bridge and examined it from the ground, said he will propose a 5-cent per gallon increase in the federal gas tax when Congress reconvenes in September.

That would raise the federal gas tax to 23.4 cents a gallon from 18.4 cents. Minnesota levies an additional 20-cent per gallon in state taxes.

The money raised by the tax increase would support a new bridge inspection and maintenance program, Oberstar said.

"If you are not prepared to invest an additional 5 cents in bridge reconstruction and road reconstruction, god help you," Oberstar said during a news conference along the river downstream from the Stone Arch Bridge.

On Tuesday, Oberstar said he will hold congressional hearings on the bridge collapse when the House.

Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, has not finalized a witness list for the hearing but will begin doing so this month.

"This is obviously something that needs to be dealt with quickly, and we're going to see hearings and work as soon as Congress reconvenes," said John Schadl, Oberstar's spokesman.

Oberstar plans to work during the August recess on detailed plans to redevelop the nation's infrastructure, his spokesman said.

"He's looking at a solution for a problem on aging bridges on a national scale, and he's going to look at a lot of things," Schadl said.

The Eighth District congressman will tour the bridge collapse site today and meet with officials from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and other local officials. He is also expected to meet with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

Oberstar was the author of the House bill that lifted the $100 million cap on emergency funding for Minnesota. In the days after the collapse, Oberstar criticized the Bush administration for underfunding transportation needs.

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