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Remarks for
The Honorable Mary Peters
Secretary of Transportation
I-35 Bridge Collapse, Minneapolis, MN

August 2, 2007
11:30 AM

Thank you so much, Governor. First and foremost, on behalf of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and the whole Administration, our sympathy goes out to this community. To those who lost loved ones, to those who were injured, you are all in our thoughts and prayers.

We also want to share the gratitude for those who helped with the rescue and recovery efforts. What we saw, may of us, on television last night was a community not just of emergency responders, but as the Governor and the Mayor said, normal people who came to the scene and helped rescue others and I'm sure saved lives in the process of doing that.

I am here today on behalf of the President to offer the full support of the federal government, particularly the U.S. Department of Transportation, as we respond to this emergency. I plan to provide a support role and to expedite federal financial assistance as Governor Pawlenty and the Mayor have indicated as they lead this response effort and the recovery period of this important incident.

I have asked our bridge and our engineering staff from the Federal Highway Administration to provide their full support to the state and to the National Transportation Safety Board as they analyze what happened here. My highway experts, my staff, including Federal Highway Administrator Rick Capka, will stay here on the ground to provide that kind of assistance. We need to fully understand what happened so we can take every possible step to ensure that something like this does not happen again.

I spoke with the DOT Inspector General last night. He will monitor all of the investigations and decide very quickly what kind of short-term actions need to be taken.

I have also made it clear to the Governor, to Senator Coleman, to Senator Klobuchar and to Congressman Ellison, that we are prepared to provide financial and technical assistance needed to keep both the road and the river traffic moving and to get this bridge rebuilt safely and as soon as possible. We will employ every method that we have at our disposal to do that.

Today, I am making an initial distribution of $5 million from the Department. This money will be available today to help restore the traffic flow, to clear the debris, to set up detours, and to begin the repair work.

We stand ready to make all of the additional appropriate funds available as soon as the state completes the assessment of the total damage and the ultimate cost to replace this bridge. DOT will absolutely lock arms with local government officials and be a partner in the rebuilding of this vital commercial and commuting corridor here.

The sad memory of this tragedy will never fade, but we are going to make sure that last night's damage and debris will soon become a thing of the past. We will rebuild this bridge, repair it, and reestablish it in this community as quickly as we can.

Thank you so much.

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