Mr. President, I rise in support of passing the bill that's on the bill. That's the safetea-lu technical corrections bill. When you look at the bill that is the magnitude of the safetea-lu bill, there are bound to be some drafting errors and issues and I am glad that we are taking the time to correct these errors so we can continue to strengthen our national infrastructure and our economy. As a member of the environment and public works committee, I applaud senator boxer's leadership on getting this bill to the floor. This bill is a step in the right direction, as is congress's -- as this congress focuses more and more attention on our national infrastructure.

I urge all of my colleagues to support this bill as well as future efforts to strengthen our national infrastructure. As you and I know, as being the senator from Colorado, the presiding officer is, we believe there is a new economy in the future here. It is the energy economy. But if we're going to move forward to the next century economy, we cannot be stuck in the last century's transportation system. I believe that when you invest in infrastructure, Mr. President, you invest in the American economy. Rebuilding Main Street means revitalizing Main Street. The federal highway administration estimates that for every $1 billion of federal highway investment, it creates over 30,000 jobs. So when we rebuild our roads, we strengthen our economy. 

As you know, a bridge collapsed one day in the middle of Minnesota. It was something no one could ever believe would happen in the middle of our major interstate highway system. As I said that day, a bridge just shouldn't fall down in the middle of America, especially not an eight-lane interstate highway, especially not one of the most heavily traveled bridges in our state, and especially not at rush hour in the heart of a major metropolitan area and – a major metropolitan area, and especially in my front yard.

It was only eight blocks from my house. Unfortunately it has taken a disaster of this magnitude to put the issue of infrastructure investment squarely on the national agenda, and it is long overdue. The sudden failure and collapse of the I-35W Bridge has raised many questions about the condition and safety of our roads and bridges. In fact we just had a bridge that was similarly designed shut down in St. Cloud, Minnesota, about an hour and a half away from the bridge that collapsed. It was designed by the same designer, had the same problem with the bent gussets, and as you know, the investigation is still going on into the exact cause and triggering e events that led to the collapse of the i-35w bridge. But the fact that a bridge was closed down so near in the state of Minnesota has now decided to replace that bridge rather than repair it, shows that this is not just an isolated incident. Critical investment in the maintenance and construction of our nation's transportation is imperative.

Strengthening and maintaining our national infrastructure must be a national priority. At the moment our priorities are not in the right place. We spend $12 billion a month in Iraq with no end in sight, but our bridges fall down in the middle of America. We have tax cuts for the top 1%, but it's getting harder and harder for the middle that are breaking down. I've seen myself the bridges that are in need of shoulders. I've seen the highways that are in need of repair. Some of our roads are in such disrepair in Minnesota that they've actually been letting them go to dirt. We've gone the opposite because they don't have the money to repair them. 

The ethanol plant in Benson, Minnesota, now has over 525 fully loaded semis hauling either corn ethanol or other forms of biodiesel from their plant every week. This is a 45 million-gallon facility. Their production falls about in the middle of Minnesota’s 16 ethanol plants. SMI hydraulics is a company in rural southwestern Minnesota that manufactures the basis for the wind towers that you see all over across southern Minnesota. I visited the company. They basically started in a barn, and -- started in a barn and they're building these huge wind towers. The heavy trucks that bring the steel to the company put an understandable heavy burden on the roads they travel and are putting their durability to the test.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that truck freight in rural America is going to double -- double -- by the year 2020. The continuing trend toward greater reliance on trucking to support these industries raises concern about the wear and tear on rural roads and bridges. Many of these roads and bridges were built before this trend was evident. Whoever thought they'd be carrying these huge wind towers? They were not designed for this type of traffic. Much of the rural road network in the United States was constructed during an era of slower travel and lighter vehicles. Current traffic which is heavier and wider has accelerated the rate of deterioration and made these types of roads less serviceable. In many important grain-producing states like Minnesota, more than 40% of the major highway system is rated as being in less than fair condition. Our transportation systems need to support the development of these industries, so we need to look at the full spectrum of transportation options. And I truly appreciate senator boxer's leadership on this, looking not just at truck travel, not just at roads, but also at mass transportation and other ways that we can transport our goods to market.

With more than half of our state of Minnesota’s total population now living in the seven-county twin cities metro area, the need for more transportation options has become very clear to all of us. It's not just about the rural areas in our state. Increasing traffic congestion has become a major threat to Minnesota’s quality of life and our prosperity, costing precious time and Money for both commuters and businesses. There's enormous support in our state for something called Northstar rail that will bring people basically from the twin cities to the area of St. Cloud, big lake to be exact -- St. Cloud, the area I explained where the bridge had just been closed down because of safety concerns. And if you drive that 94 interstate right now, I can tell you waste so much time sitting in traffic, you practically feel sick to your stomach when you're there in rush hour. We need that mass transit and legislators and people who were completely opposed to this project are now standing up in the front of the line because they know how important it is for their constituents. This is a case where I have to tell you the constituents were there before the elected officials and led  the way to try to get this Northstar rail in, and because of the federal help, it's not getting built.

The bottom line for any business is that you lose money when your people and your products get stuck in traffic. And you also lose the ability to attract top-notch, talented workers if they must contend with the aggravating and time-consuming traffic jams. To combat this threat, we must commit to broadening our transportation options, developing the right mix of multimodal solutions to serve our emerging needs while maintaining our existing systems and highways. This mix of course, includes not just rail, but rapid bus transit, high-occupancy toll lanes, anything we can do to try to move the people to the places they need to go. 

Our nation has faced this challenge before a half-century ago, and we succeeded in building a new, modern transportation system for a new, modern economy. At the heart of it all was the interstate highway system. In his 1963 member wore, mandate for change, President Eisenhower famously said that -- quote -- “more than any single action by the government since the end of the war, the one that would change the face of America is this: transportation. Its impact on the American economy, the jobs it would produce in manufacturing, construction, the rural areas it would open up was beyond calculation." he was right.

It is our responsibility to restore Eisenhower’s vision of a transportation infrastructure that works for all of America. I can tell you this firsthand from my heart, having seen what happens when you don't invest like you're supposed to, having seen a major bridge just fall down one day in the middle of America, having seen the promise in the rural parts of our state of the new energy revolution but then hearing how they can't get their goods to market because they've got a bunch of single-road highways when they have trucks that they're trying to bring wind towers in, when they're trying to be part of the solution to this energy crisis.

It's our responsibility, Mr. President, to restore that vision that Eisenhower had, to build this transportation infrastructure in our country. And that's why I’m so proud to support senator boxer in a her work on this bill. And I hope that our colleagues will support this bill and that we get this bill passed for the good of America. Thank You.

It seems that when there is so much bipartisan, that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle would try to advance this bill. In our state, they see this not only as you talked about, to figure out when we had this tragedy, figure out, do an analysis of what we need to do to meet the transportation needs, they also see it as investment. As you know we were unable on the stimulus package to get some things that we wanted on the democratic side, but we did get the checks in the mail to people. After the checks are cashed, we need long-term investment in this country. I want to thank you for bringing up that piece of the bill. I was focused on the nuts and bolts of the wear and tear on the roads that we think about when we drive down the highway. We have to think about this as an investment strategy. I thank you for bringing up that very important point.