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Transportation secretary says nation's infrastructure improving

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Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters speaks at a press conference about the collapsed portion of the Interstate 35 bridge in Minneapolis Thursday. She promised $5 million in immediate federal aid to help with the emergency.
David Lienemann/Getty Images

Speaking on the one year anniversary of the Minneapolis bridge collapse that killed 13 people, the nation's top transportation official said the nation's infrastructure is slowly improving.

      Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said fewer bridges are classified as functionally obsolete or structurally deficient compared with a year ago. She said that bridges of the same type as the one that collapsed in Minneapolis are being inspected with particular care.

      "I can tell you that the state of the infrastructure in the nation today is improving, albeit slightly, it is improving," Peters said. "I'm comfortable telling you today that we should not have another incident like that."

      From December 2006 to December 2007, four months after the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed, the number of structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges declined by 1,674 to 152,316, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The Minneapolis bridge was part of that so-called structurally deficient group. 

At the same time, the overall number of bridges in the nation increased by almost 3,000 to nearly 600,000. The data for 2008 is not yet available.

      Peters made her comments in South Florida where she toured a new express toll lane in Miami and spoke with state and local officials. The toll lane replaces existing car pool lanes on a stretch of Interstate 95, and the fee for using the lanes will fluctuate from 25 cents to $2.50 based on traffic volume.

      Already, the route has been criticized for causing a series of accidents as motorists unaware of the changes use the lanes. The move to toll lanes instead of car pool lanes has also been criticized as catering to wealthy drivers.

      Peters said she and the Florida Department of Transportation were aware of the crashes and are working to educate the public about the lanes. Tolls have not yet started on the stretch of road, but they are expected to begin some time in August.

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             (Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)