Mr. President, the last time I addressed this body was before we adjourned for the August recess. I had just returned from surveying the enormous damage that occurred when the 35-w bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, and it had just collapsed the day before.
While I spoke, the dust from this tragedy had yet to settle. Well-trained first responders had arrived at the scene and they were heroically rescuing survivors from the wreckage. The entire country was mourning the victims while praying for the ones who were yet to be found.
Everyone was expressing relief that a school bus filled with little children had miraculously escaped disaster. Brave divers, despite mental and physical exhaustion, were working around the clock to find loved ones. People like Patrick Holmes, who was driving home to his young wife, Jennifer, and their two children, who was on the bridge when that happened. People like Saudia Sadan, a pregnant nursing student and her two-year-old daughter Hannah who were headed to a relative's house when the bridge crumbled beneath them. The police, the fire department, the emergency personnel, and ordinary citizens all came together.
The tragedy of the day was met with enormous generosity from the community. It was also met with generosity from this body. United in bipartisanship, every single Senator agreed that they would help to provide the necessary means to help Minnesota rebuild. It was done in record time, 60 hours.
Today, as I stand before this body, the dust has finally settled. And the promise was that when the dust settled, we would provide the necessary means to help Minnesota rebuild. On August 20, the nearly three-week recovery effort finally came to an end when the last known victim was found.
The loss of Greg Jolsted or "Jolly" as he was known by family and friends brings the official death toll to 13. Much of a massive interstate highway bridge is staked by the Mississippi river while the remaining tons upon tons of steel lay buried below the river.
As I said that day, a bridge just shouldn't fall down in America. But it did. And although we do not know yet why the I-35W bridge failed and while we still mourn those who lost their lives, the rebuilding effort has begun.
With the initial money that Congress appropriated, Minnesota has increased transient options to serve commuters, set up detours to restore traffic flow, cleared structural debris and begun to lay the general framework for rebuilding.
As Minnesota continues to clear the path for a new bridge, I know that this body, as they promised that evening, stands ready to ensure that the appropriate funding is made available to rebuild it.
It is one of the most heavily traveled bridges in the state and vital to our economy. I think if anyone would imagine the most major bridge in the metropolitan area, the most major highway overpass suddenly falling into a river, you would understand. It is a bridge that takes people downtown, it brings students to one of the biggest universities in this country, and it brings hard-working Minnesotans to their jobs every day. But most importantly, it is the bridge that connects countless people with their families and friends.
On august 3, this Congress made a promise to the people of Minnesota that we would help rebuild the bridge. Today I come to the floor to ensure that we make good on that promise. I am very happy, and I supported this effort to look at repairs across the country.
That’s what we just voted on today -- that's what we just voted on today and it passed. But I think we should make clear that that appropriation did not include the money that Congress promised for the Minnesota bridge. It was used as the key example of why we needed to make repairs across the country, but it did not include the money to repair our bridge.
The last time I addressed this body, the day after the bridge collapsed, I said that the rebuilding effort is going to be a long process. It's not just going to end tonight. So today I'm here to take the next step in that rebuilding process. Our goal is to get this bridge rebuilt and to get our metropolitan area moving again.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation concluded that the loss of this critical bridge costs our economy $400,000 per day. This is primarily due to lost travel time for commuters, for commercial truckers, for businesses closed down. This means that our economy has already lost well over $8 million since the bridge collapsed. As this fiscal year comes to a close, I am dedicated to getting the funding for our state and the entire Midwest.
We need to rebuild this bridge. We would like to rebuild this bridge as soon as possible, as I know this country wants to do and this body pledged to do. That's why we will work on this bill and whatever other bills we need to work on to get this funding for this bridge. So I applaud the efforts of my colleagues to get bridge repair for every state across the country, but we are devoted that Congress make good on its promise and rebuild this bridge that is the symbol for why we need to make infrastructure repairs across this country.
Thank you, Mr. President