INTERVIEW: Infrastructure Improvements

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - He was the mayor of Minneapolis when the city faced a catastrophic infrastructure failure. Mayor R.T Rybak lead the city's recovery from a horrific bridge collapse that killed 13 people. He is also considered a rising star in the Democratic Party and currently serves as the vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Mayor Rybak joins us live from Minneapolis to talk about efforts by the Obama administration to inject funding into major infrastructure projects.

RYAN: Mayor, thank you for joining us. My first question for you is just how shocking was it to see the I-35-W Mississippi River Bridge collapse and are there bridges like this in other parts of the country that we should be worried about?

RYBAK: Well, stop and think about any route you take in rush hour. Think about the assumption you rightfully have driving across a bridge, it should be here. And then suddenly it collapses under you. That's really what happened here, and the sad fact of the matter is there are bridges in terrible conditions around the country. The president had a pretty common sense idea. Let's take all those bridges that get below the grade D that we have in the country, also with trains and aviation, transit, and let's fix them up, put people to work. The senate just voted that down. So, it's an action in Washington. It's a reality in the rest of the country that we are not investing in infrastructure. I'm sorry to say I know exactly what happens when we don't, and it's not pretty.

RYAN: You mentioned the infrastructure bill that was just voted down in the senate, a $50 billion investment. Republicans continue to say that there just isn't the money to pay for this type of an investment. Do you think that we should be raising taxes to be able to pay for something like this?

RYBAK: Yes, and I'll tell you why. A wise person once said that if you don't invest in fixing infrastructure you will pay a lot more in the long run. That person was Ronald Reagan. Now he proposed paying for a major investment in infrastructure differently. He talked about a gas tax. Right now, the president is talking about the fact that those at the very, very top end of the income should pay a little bit more so that we can put more persons to work. In return, we cannot only fix our infrastructure, but we can get the economy going again. You bet I believe as somebody who has seen what happens when you don't invest in infrastructure that you either pay now or you pay later, and the way you have to pay later is not a pretty thing.

RYAN: My last question for you. Republicans have been resistant to this type of investment. Now there are democrats too that seem reluctant to raise taxes on the high earners. What is it going to take to bring everyone together to come up with a commonsense plan?

RYBAK: I think all of it. Away from what's happening at the Capitol, we need to stand back and talk commonsense. Now, when I was in school a D was not a good grade. If I failed a class, that was bad. If we take a D-rated piece of infrastructure and we fail, that means the train you're riding, the plane you're riding, the car you're on over that bridge, the fail there is something that's horrendous. We need to get this country moving again, and the best way to do it is to invest in infrastructure.

RYAN: Minneapolis mayor, R.T. Rybak, thank you for joining us.

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