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Verrazano Bridge Birthday Wish: New Investment, Not Duct Tape, for America’s Infrastructure

(November 21, 2013) Marking the 49th birthday of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge -- once a modern span for commuters, freight and commerce -- LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan called for a long-term strategy to rebuild our country’s critical transportation infrastructure, noting that no state or locality will be able to afford all the urgently needed investments without Congress doing their part.

While the bridge is finally receiving much needed attention to prevent it from literally falling down, its state highlights a serious local, regional and national problem. Like the Verrazano-Narrows, the average bridge in the United States was built to last 50 years and tens of thousands of them are approaching or exceeding that lifespan. Now across the nation, approximately one in four bridges is structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

“It is sad to see this proud legacy fall into such disrepair. Our bridges – as with our nation’s entire critical infrastructure – were built through both the sweat and toil of laborers with a grand vision of what America can be,” O’Sullivan said. “Building and maintaining our transportation systems will drive our economy, keep us globally competitive, create jobs and restore us to the ranks of nations with the most advanced infrastructure.”

With our nation’s Transportation Trust Fund from the brink of insolvency, O’Sullivan has joined former Obama Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue in support of adjusting and indexing the gas tax. Other ideas include Infrastructure Banks that feed public-private partnerships and the Bridge Act, which would begin to allocate the needed investments. The current federal Highway Bill, the main way the U.S. invests in its transportation systems, is set to expire in less than a year.

“Every year we wait, drivers are forced to pay a much higher price than any gas tax,” he added. “Just a dimes worth of difference now could mean a total annual savings for drivers in every state. It’s time to stop duct-taping this crisis.”

The economic cost of our crumbling infrastructure is about $3.1 trillion in GDP, $1.1 trillion in trade and 3.5 million in jobs by 2020. On an individual basis, the average motorist wastes $403 a year on fuel and repairs due to the deterioration of our roadways.