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How Many Bridges Must Fall Before Congress Takes Action to Protect Our Safety?

Statement of LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan

On Falling Pieces of I-95/495 Bridge and the Need for a Long-Term Highway Bill

 

February 12, 2015 (Washington, D.C.) – Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – made the following statement regarding the partial collapse of a structurally deficient Interstate 95-495 bridge onto Suitland Road in Maryland on Wednesday:

This is not the country we should be: An innocent motorist traveling on one of the nation’s major arteries narrowly escapes injury when a piece of a bridge falls through her windshield – and there are nearly 65,000 other bridges in our country with the same classification of structurally deficient.

The statistics have been repeated ad nauseam. A fourth of bridges are deficient or obsolete, the average bridge is dangerously close to its average lifespan of 50 years and poor road conditions contribute to a third of all traffic fatalities. While the infamous Minneapolis bridge collapse left 13 dead, other bridge failures are becoming too common – from the collapse in Cincinnati this year that left one dead to the I-5 bridge failure in Washington state in 2013 that cost the nation millions of dollars in international commerce to last year’s near-collapse in Delaware that snarled traffic for 90,000 commuters a day.

Some will always point to a political hurdle or legislative dysfunction as a reason Congress can’t show the leadership needed to invest in basic, critical, fundamental infrastructure. That is politics at its worst. Those excuses won’t work if the next incident involves a school bus, causes serious injury or results in death. How many bridges must fall before Congress takes action to protect our safety?

Congress has multiple viable options to choose from to address the transportation infrastructure crisis by passing a full-investment, long-term Highway Bill. But they must grow up and lead, rather than nibbling around the edges of a problem that threatens safety and our economy. A modest adjustment in the gas tax now would address the crisis while allowing time to develop longer-term solutions. Now is the time to do the big things that have made America great – not demonstrate cowardice that will make us America the crumbling.

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The half-million members of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – are on the forefront of the construction industry, a powerhouse of workers who are proud to build America.