Massachusetts has more than 2,500 structurally deficient bridges, according to the Federal Highway Administration. New Hampshire has 775, roughly 150 of which are so-called “red-listed,” including a 100-year-old crossing over the Merrimack in Concord deemed unsafe and closed down.

New Englanders recognize the need to fix their rotting roads and bridges – especially after the brutal 2014-'15 winter ravaged even the hardiest structures and surfaces. But, the area's Senators are split on a six-year funding bill negotiated by Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Barbara Boxer. That bill passed the Senate 65-34, even as Congress played kick-the-can for another three months on the Highway Trust Fund, which is now set to run dry on October 31.

Bay State Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren voted against the bill on Thursday, both citing safety concerns in response to my inquiries. Markey was rebuffed in attempts to add several measures to the bill related to train operations and auto safety, which he has long championed. Warren's office noted many of the same concerns, and also decried measures that give incentives for public-private transit partnerships that, she warns, would come at a cost to taxpayers and transit workers.

But another liberal, Rhode Island's Sheldon Whitehouse, voted in favor of the bill over these concerns. That state has the worst-condition roads and bridges in the country, according to FHA. Whitehouse also pointed, in defending the vote, to plans to rebuild the busy Providence connection between Routes 6 and 10.

But that vote put Whitehouse at odds with his state's senior Democrat Jack Reed, who voted no, as did both Senators from Connecticut.

And Vermont's duo, including ultra-lefty Bernie Sanders, voted in favor – putting them on the side of Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and moderates Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Angus King of Maine.

Shaheen, who has been traveling New Hampshire highlighting transportation repair needs, emphasized the need for long-term funding to green-light stalled projects. “Road and bridge disrepair is hurting the local economy, increasing traffic, adding wear and tear to vehicles, and is a threat to public safety,” she said in a statement.

King, in a statement, made a similar argument. “This bill is by no means perfect – but it's a long-term solution that helps provide the certainty needed to invest in fixing this serious problem.”

The bill passed, 65-34, and now heads to a skeptical House of Representatives. The House passed a three-month stop-gap measure – the third in the past year – and left early for its August recess. The Senate had little choice but to acquiesce to that, and did so in a near-unanimous vote, but will now push for the House to go along with the long-term solution before the new, October 31 deadline.

Shaheen and King both criticized the House for ignoring the long-term solution and skipping out of Washington.

So did some Democrats on the House side, including Katherine Clark of Massachusetts. “I won't continue to vote for extensions that enable governing by crisis and ignore the need for a permanent solution to fix our nation's crumbling roads and bridges,” Clark said in a statement.

Maine: Land of lobsters and... superconductors?

Nobody was likely surprised when Maine Senator Angus King filed a resolution last week proposing a National Lobster Day for September 25, on which people would “observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”After all, Maine catches 85 percent of the country's lobsters, around 100 million pounds of them, with a value of nearly $400 million. Encouraging lobster ceremonies and activities – especially eating them – is an obvious boon for King's state.

King also recently helped create a Semiconductor Caucus in Congress, to advocate for that industry. That link might be less obvious to many. But in fact Maine, particularly the Portland area, has long been home to a thriving semiconductor industry.

Fairchild Semiconductor was long headquartered in South Portland before moving its base to California in 2013, and still employs a good chunk of the company's 9000 global employees. Texas Instruments has a semiconductor business in South Portland, purchased from National Semiconductor in 2011, that employs more than 500 people, and there are others in the area as well. About one-tenth of Maine's $2.8 billion of annual exports comes from the computer and electronics industry, according to the International Trade Administration.

Massachusetts has even more at stake in the industry, with companies such as Analog Devices in Norwood and Skyworks Solutions in Woburn.

King launched the new caucus on July 21, along with Senate co-chair Jim Risch of Idaho and two co-chairs from the House of Representatives. The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) had members on hand for the occasion.

King's office says he will use the caucus to help the industry, but that doesn't mean he's in lockstep with their desires. The SIA advocated in favor of the controversial Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation recently, which King voted against, and is currently pushing back on proposed EPA regulations covering materials used in semiconductor manufacturing.

In other words, the industry often pushes for the same anti-regulatory and anti-labor measures as other business groups – some of which are not in line with the Democratic-caucusing Independent Senator.        

Meanwhile, Maine might soon be getting into another international market: raw fish delicacies.

On Friday, Maine's delegation announced a $192,000 federal grant to work on establishing high-end sashimi-grade markets for Maine seafood.

Flurry of bills

Since they can only file bills while the House is in session, members rushed to submit their latest before the August recess began last Wednesday.

A few of interest from the area Reps:

--Katherine Clark of Massachusetts filed a bill to fund research and treatment of postpartum depression. She has a Republican co-sponsor, Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania.

--Another Clark bill would require states to gather and report academic progress for students in,  homeless families, and for those in foster homes. A similar measure was included in the Senate version of a large education bill, which is currently in conference committee to resolve differences. So, Clark's bill could be adopted as part of that reconciliation.

--Maine's Bruce Poliquin introduced a bill intended to bring more people into careers in trucking and log hauling. It would lower the age that commercial drivers can cross state lines from 21 to 18.

--Bill Keating of Massachusetts – a former District Attorney – filed a measure on how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) handles sex offenders. It comes in response to a June report in the Boston Globe on lapses in notification when ICE releases sex offenders.

--And finally, David Cicilline of Rhode Island offered a sinister-sounding bill requiring reports on foreign military entities from the Defense Secretary. Cicilline's office explains that the reports would inform companies such as Woonsocket-based Brickle Group, which makes fabrics for military uniforms and berets, of opportunities to bid on contracts to supply other countries' armed forces.

Social media picture of the week

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker was in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to advocate for a variety of state needs. Stephen Lynch Tweeted this photo of the two of them sitting down to “discuss infrastructure projects” in his district – a day after the collapse of Boston's Olympic bid, which would have had dramatic effects on Lynch's district.