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Statement of Terry O'Sullivan, General President, Laborers' International Union of North America, On the Collapse of the Interstate 5 Skagit River Bridge

Statement of Terry O’Sullivan, General President, Laborers’ International Union of North America,
On the Collapse of the Interstate 5 Skagit River Bridge

“Our Nation’s Approach to Transportation Infrastructure is Functionally Obsolete”

Washington, D.C. (May 24, 2013) – Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA, made the following statement today regarding the collapse of the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Skagit River in Washington State:

Our nation’s approach to transportation infrastructure is functionally obsolete. How many more bridges must collapse, how many people must be hurt or die and how many billions of dollars must be drained from our economy before Congress makes investing in the basic infrastructure of our country a priority?

This latest bridge collapse must serve as a wake-up call to Congress and our nation to get serious about the dire state of America’s transportation infrastructure. While there were injuries, thankfully there were no deaths in this collapse – unlike the I-35 bridge failure in Minneapolis. As a major international artery between the U.S. and Canada, the economic impact due to lost commerce is expected to be in the hundreds of millions.

This latest bridge collapse is but a symbol of the serious and worsening decay of America’s infrastructure. About 25 percent of our bridges are structurally deficient or
functionally obsolete. While not always publicized, on average 25 bridges in the United States collapse each year. The average bridge in the U.S. was built to last 50 years – this bridge was 58 years old. The American Society of Civil Engineers calculates that we invest $12.8 billion annually in decaying bridges – far below the $20.5 billion needed,
and far below the ultimate cost in lives and dollars if Congress continues to skirt its

Congress has been using the equivalent of duct tape to repair our nation’s bridges when
what we need are long-term solutions and a long-term commitment to make significant
and sustained investments in our transportation infrastructure.

It is time to stop building roads and bridges in Iraq and to invest in building America for
a change.