By: ALAN FRAM – Associated Press
WASHINGTON — With tens of thousands of U.S. bridges considered structurally deficient, Gary Bowen figures the Minneapolis span that collapsed last week can’t be the only one with big problems. Joyce Davis isn’t quite so worried.
The two were part of an Associated Press-Ipsos survey this week in which majorities said that while the collapse signals a nationwide safety problem, they have confidence in their own communities’ spans.
The poll was released last week, even as President Bush signaled resistance to congressional proposals to raise federal gasoline taxes to finance widespread repairs. He accused lawmakers of steering federal money to local projects before distributing the money nationally.
“That’s not the right way to prioritize the people’s money,” Bush said at a news conference. “So before we raise taxes which could affect economic growth, I would strongly urge the Congress to examine how they set priorities.”
Bush’s comments, eight days after the rush-hour disaster at the Mississippi River crossing, could point toward a confrontation over the idea when Congress returns from recess next month.
Three out of four in the AP-Ipsos survey expressed at least some confidence in the condition of bridges in their home state, including three in 10 who said they were very confident. Yet by 55 percent to 42 percent, most said last week’s disaster pointed to a wider problem, not an isolated incident.
“Somebody has to make it a priority, but everybody is pinching their budgets,” said Bowen, 46, a teacher from Perryville, Md. “People don’t understand that construction isn’t forever. You have to do maintenance or it will fall down eventually.”