Norman Mineta peered out a CSX window and stared at a community that's still picking up the pieces from a ferocious hurricane.
"It looked a heck of a lot better than when I first saw it after the storm," Mineta said.
The nation's transportation secretary rode down CSX's damaged rail line and saw a perspective of Katrina that few people have witnessed. His train passed through Long Beach and Pass Christian, before it inched across the Bay of St. Louis' recently repaired rail bridge.
"So what was the total cost on this?" he asked a CSX executive.
The answer -- about $70 million. Well spent money, Mineta said, since trains could roll across it again.
"The progress that's being made to reconnect and reopen bridges is nothing short of impressive," he said.
After the train tour, Mineta and Congressman Gene Taylor boarded a Coast Guard boat. They got a rare chance to study bridge damage from the water.
"The loss of these bridges dealt a very serious blow to the local and regional economy," said Mineta.
The transportation secretary noted the twisted steel sticking out of a broken bridge span. What he saw equated to a transportation nightmare.
"But I can tell you that considering the severity of the damage from these storms, it is clear that a lot of incredible work is being done to erase the doubt and the impact of the hurricane on our transportation network," he said. "And it is happening in record time."
Mr. Mineta said the federal government hopes to pay for both bridge repair projects along Highway 90. Whether that's possible will be determined in the next few days, after his staff reviews the bid packages submitted for that work.