Senator Cornyn

Cornyn, Klobuchar Introduce Bill to Improve Safety of Critical Structures

June 4, 2024

Legislation Could Be Used to Investigate Bridge Collapses

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) today introduced the National Construction Safety Team Enhancement Act, which would authorize the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to investigate and help prevent future critical structure failures like bridge collapses:

“Texas is home to a host of critical structures that facilitate smooth transportation and commerce while also safeguarding our cities and towns,” said Sen. Cornyn. “By authorizing the federal government’s premier physical science laboratory to investigate a broader range of structure failures, this legislation would help make bridges, levees, and dams across Texas and the nation safer.”

“America’s buildings are safer today thanks to the National Institute of Standards and Technology,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “By expanding their oversight authority to other critical structures like dams, levees, and dikes, this bipartisan legislation will prevent catastrophic infrastructure failures and save lives.”

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Frank Lucas (OK-03) and Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (CA-18) introduced the legislation in the House, which overwhelmingly passed the chamber last month.


As part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is one of the nation’s oldest physical science laboratories. In response to the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings during the September 11th terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush signed a law directing NIST to establish teams to investigate major building failures and issue reports on how to prevent similar failures in the future. However, NIST is currently only authorized to conduct investigations into building structure failures, not bridge collapses or levee and dam failures.

The National Construction Safety Team Enhancement Act would replace the word “buildings” with broader language throughout NIST’s authorization to give it authority to investigate other critical infrastructure failures, such as the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore in March 2024 and the Pelican Island Bridge collapse in Galveston, Texas in May 2024. NIST investigations are highly technical, conducted with the permission of and in partnership with state and local authorities, and prevent waste by only initiating when engineering failures are present.